Sober at 17

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One of my former students at Metro State University was especially supportive and informative when we were worried sick about our son’s addiction – because she had firsthand insight. We became fast friends and later colleagues at work. Today, she’s our guest blogger sharing her experience with addiction, sobriety and recovery as a young adult. Please welcome Lisa Grimm! MWM

Six shots of Bacardi Limon, I threw up and fell in love all in the same night. I was 15.

And I would fall truly, madly, deeply in love with alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine over the next two and a half years.

Up until this time my parents, sober alcoholics since before I was born, had said things like, “Don’t drink or do drugs. It won’t mix well with your body chemistry.” My body chemistry? Without further explanation that statement was awkward enough to keep me away, for a time. I was also acutely aware that most of my deceased lineage had died because of the bottle, which legit scared me.

My childhood was difficult for many reasons. Out of respect to my family I won’t air specific grievances. I will say that my parents were battling some significant issues. I was exposed to some very grown up things at a very young age (mental illness, anger management, financial struggles, legal proceedings of epic proportions, and the list goes on) and endured mental, emotional and physical abuse along the way.

My parents divorced when I was four. My dad remarried shortly after. I attended eight schools before high school making it difficult to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships.

As an only child with emotionally unavailable parents (P.S. I love them so much), I spent a lot of time alone (and lonely) leaning on movies, my imagination and wandering the streets to help me process my surroundings and teach me about the workings of life and the world. While I knew something was deeply wrong, I accumulated survival tools wherever I could find them and carried on. I deflected the hard stuff and became a chameleon of sorts, blending into my surroundings.

When I took that first drink my surroundings expanded far and wide. I had a new group of friends and a full social calendar. It felt like anything was possible.

Those warnings from my parents still had a hold, so I declared almost immediately that I would just drink and never do drugs. Two months later I started smoking pot.

Experimentation continued and within a few years I was smoking pot several times a day had dabbed in hallucinogens which led to ecstasy and cocaine, and boy oh boy what a joy they were.

As Josey Orr says, “The typical progression for many drug addicts goes something like this: 1. Fun 2. Fun with problems 3. Just problems.” Well, the problems began almost immediately with a rapidly plummeting fun quotient. There are so many details I’d like to share with you, but this isn’t a book nor are there pictures so I’ll cut to the chase :).

On November 3, 2000 at the ripe age of 17 I experienced my last of a long list of consequences related to my alcohol and drug use.

I had become careless and sloppy, as evidenced by the sizable bag of pot hanging out of my brand new winter coat as I was leaving the house to go party that Friday night. My stepmom, tired of it all and one to always call the kettle, called me to the living room and along with my dad offered me three choices. I could:

 

  1. Go to the Bloomington Police Station and take a possession charge (she wasn’t kidding), OR
  2. Go to treatment, OR
  3. Go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days

 

I was living with them after being kicked out of my mom’s house for the last time. Despite my family banding together through group therapy and other means to confront my use and problems, by this time I had been arrested twice, kicked out of flight school at University of North Dakota (the day before my solo flight) due to one of those arrests, nearly kicked out of Cretin Derham-Hall High School for disciplinary issues and declining grades, and a slew of other damaging things to my body and mind, and others—namely my family.

As with most addicts, it’s a long and varied list of shittiness.

I knew deep down that I was killing myself. I knew that the young woman I had become was someone not only unrecognizable, but someone I didn’t want to be. But the gravity of the emptiness and pain I felt inside had become so pervasive sedation was the most effective option to deal. So… I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. Not only was it was a far better option than treatment (or spending some time in a cell, even if brief) it was the easiest to manipulate. “Sure” I thought. “I’ll go to these meetings and carry on with my routine and they’ll never know.”

Naturally, I got good and high and went to my first meeting on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at Uptown House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. I didn’t know these people, they weren’t trying to tell me I had a problem. They were simple sharing what it had been like for them, what happened and what it’s like now. They didn’t look like me or talk like me, but for the first time ever I related to this group of people in the most real and authentic way I knew existed. I saw myself in them and it gave me a lot of hope. It also scared the shit out of me.

After an evening of tears and getting honest with myself, I made the decision that I would go to 90 meetings in 90 days and do what was asked of me. If I didn’t like what I found there I would continue as I had been and write the whole thing off.

I got a Big Book, a sponsor, went to meetings regularly, worked the steps, and found a wonderful group of young sober people to hang with. I told my friends at school that I had to take care of some things for a while and if there were still there when I got back that would be great.

I said the serenity prayer from my car to the door of school every morning and periodically throughout the day, just to make it through.

I showed up at meetings early to set up and clean up. I participated in leadership roles in my home group meeting. I took meetings to women’s treatment centers and detox facilities. When I had thoroughly worked through the steps, I shared my experience, strength and hope with other women. My family supported me, but continued to enforce strong checks and balances until I built up trust.

I’ve been sober ever since. I was a senior in High School a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

My life is better than anything I could have imagined, and it continues to get better. Even the shitty moments in life are better because I have the tools to deal with all of it, like a grown up. I have accomplished so many things because of my recovery, but the most lovely and dearest to me is restored relationships with my family and the relationships and love recovery enables. There is no greater gift in this life than being able to have true intimacy and love with other humans. No amount of money, material, professional or personal accolades will fill your soul like this does, at least this is true for me.

I’m beyond grateful for the people in that room that night, my family for loving me through the good, bad and the ugly, the amazing community of sober pals I have and the friends I have that don’t treat me/act differently because of it.

Cheers to another day!

Bio:

Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) is a Minneapolis native who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, where she leads social media for Whole Foods Market. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and American Bulldog, snacking, traveling, watching movies and documentaries, and volunteering at Healing with Horses Ranch.

©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.

 

 

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#SoberSon is Two Years Sober Today

For every person in recovery, there is a day when they last used. For my son, that day was July 11, 2014. There was something profoundly different that day – from the other times he’d started a treatment program. It was more than a hopeful feeling, it was a belief – his belief – that this time he would find success.

Several years prior when we knew he had a problem with drugs and were desperately trying to get him to go to treatment for the first time, I remember him telling me that if he ever went through treatment that he’d never relapse. I don’t think he used the word relapse; it wasn’t yet a word in his vocabulary or mine.

That was such a bold statement. Curious, I asked him why. His response had something to do with resolution and choice. He wasn’t talking about willpower. He was talking about his own ability to succeed. He was intimating that successful recovery – another word that wasn’t yet part of our lexicon – requires willingness, readiness and commitment.

He basically implied that for him there was no reason to go to treatment unless he believed he would be successful.

As parents, we recognize the problem and the solution long before our young addicts. In our heads, we acknowledge the commitment piece. If only they’d put their minds toward this, right? We hear the words willingness and readiness, but don’t understand why that isn’t NOW and why we can’t convince our loved ones to do what we know they need to do.

We believe in their ability to succeed because parents are champions.

When you’re stuck in the muck of a loved one’s addiction, all we want is for them to stop using and to start living in recovery. We don’t want them to die, and yet we know that’s a very real possibility. We have a lot of hope. Quite a few years back, I wrote a piece called, “Maybe Today Will Be The Day.” https://ouryoungaddicts.com/category/young-addicts/

Of course, we would come to learn, it’s not easy to succeed in getting your young one to acknowledge that they have a problem or that treatment and sobriety are the answers And, it’s not easy to succeed in recovery if you don’t want to be in recovery in the first place. Goodness knows, he had more than one go of it.

In retrospect, whether #SoberSon or I knew it at the time he made that bold statement about success in recovery, he was on to something insightful– the idea that recovery happens when you have a belief in your own potential to succeed. It helps if your parents believe in you, but ultimately, it has to do with whether our kids believe in themselves. By continuing to show them love and compassion even in the depths of their addiction, we are contributing to a foundation for their future success.

Shortly after he’d been in his last treatment program, I asked him why it was working this time. He told me that the other programs had been, “OK,” but, “this was the first time that I didn’t want to go back (to a using life).”

In other words, it was the first time he wanted to succeed in recovery.

Today, without a doubt, #SoberSon believes in himself and slowly but surely he is thriving in his sobriety and recovery. I am so grateful that this was the day that #SoberSon truly started his recovery, and I am proud of his continued success.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            Our Young Addicts

Social Media – A Place to Connect

Sobriety & Social Media – this link explores the positive possibilities and highlights several sources for parents and professionals, including the #OYACommunity

Media Age: Sobriety and Social Media

Wishing you a wonderful Fourth of July holiday weekend!

Midwestern Mama

P.S. Here’s a social media guide for parents, which was put together by the West Virginia State Police. Lots of helpful, current information on the social channels that young people are using. parent-advice-on-social-mediaapps_final-4152016-read-only

Peanut Butter & Jelly Recovery

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

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

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

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

Let me relate this back to addiction and recovery.

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

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

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

Recovery Routine

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

The Ride

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I broke the silence of my son’s addiction.

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

More than a slogan, One Day at A Time

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Slogans are a big part of the addiction and recovery community. These help us put things into perspective and inspire us to stay the course. Today’s guest blogger took her personal experience to heart and created a tool for others, especially for people in early recovery. Below, she shares her motivation for creating ODATCards™. Thanks, Mardi, for telling us your story. MWM

My name is Mardi M. and I am a recovering addict/alcoholic from NY and the creator of ODATCards™!

ODATCards are daily Slogan Meditation Cards that actually came about by accident.

One day a friend of mine who was coming back from a relapse told me she was gonna start her 1st step and I suggested she work on the Slogans. I went home and printed up a bunch of Slogans, cut them and placed them in a box to choose from every day.  When people saw them they asked where I got them from, so I started printing them on cardstock and selling them.  From there I researched if there was anything out there as inclusive as this, and to my surprise there wasn’t!  So after researching manufacturers, a company was born with the incentive to help people.  I especially focus on the Beginner Decks because, I know for me I wanted to be part of and needed something to focus on in the beginning of this journey.

This has truly been a labor of love and has had its growing pains, so we live and we learn.

We’ve expanded the Beginner Decks to use Fellowship specific language, (Addict, Alcoholic) along with a Slogans deck for people not in recovery.  At this time, we are in several re-hab facilities throughout NY, and donate proceeds to different recovery organizations with the hopes of growing worldwide!

Special Thanks to OUR YOUNG ADDICTS For the opportunity and support!!!  XOXO ~M

Note to readers: Mardi is kindly offering a 20 percent discount on orders. Use the code:  OYA20

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Opioid: Drug Addiction Support and Recovery

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This week’s guest blogger is Joshna Roy, who writes to inform us about opioid addiction and treatment – an epidemic and growing concern. MWM

Opioid addiction is not just a personal problem. It affects the entire family. When a son or daughter gets addicted to opioids, then people who suffer the most are his/her parents, siblings, and grandparents.

Of late, there has been a lot of talk about opioid crisis in the US. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the past couple of years. Here is an infographic showing the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire, which is one of the worst affected states in the US.

Do you have a drug-addicted son/daughter in your home? If so, what should you do to save them from addiction? This post will teach you some simple ways to save your child from opioid addiction. Before that, it’s important to know some key differences between opioid and non-opioid drugs.

OPIOID AND NON-OPIOID DRUGS

Opioids are Narcotic drugs whereas non-opioids are non-narcotic in nature. There is a lot of difference between the two classes of drugs:

  • Opioids act on the Central Nervous System (CNS) whereas non-opioids act on the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).
  • Opioids are addictive whereas non-opioids are non-addictive.
  • Opioids belong to the class of Schedule II/III controlled drugs whereas non-opioids do not belong to the class of controlled drugs
  • Opioids cause no anti-inflammatory effect whereas non-opioids cause anti-inflammatory effect
  • Adverse effects of Opioids include sedation, shortage of breath, and constipation whereas adverse effects of non-opioids include gastric irritation, renal toxicity, and external bleeding.
  • Opioids have no ceiling effect but non-opioids have ceiling effect. i.e. they increase in dosage leads to horrible side effects but not increase in analgesia.

 Treatment and Recovery for Your Son/Daughter from Opioid Addiction

1.  Research and learn all you can

In order to save your child from drug addiction, it’s important that you know what it is and how it affects your child and what are the various options to treat the problem. Start with a basic research on the Internet. Get to know what these drugs are and how they work in the body.

 2. Observe them and identify their ‘cycle’

Since opioids create a sense of dependency and tolerance on the user, it’s important that you carefully observe the symptoms and effects of these drugs on your children. Does your a son/daughter experience minor symptom like body pain, restlessness, and excessive sweating or advanced symptoms like irregular heart beat rate, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. Identifying the level of addiction is moving one step closer towards eliminating it.

 3. Get advice from people who’ve been through it

Once you’ve learned the symptoms and impact of the drug on your child, the next thing you can do is to seek advice from people who have already come out of opioid addiction. It’s a major problem in the U.S. so you start a discussion on any forum or blog and ask people for advice. Who knows? Some of the remedies and suggestions by people who have crossed the path of drug addiction might just be what you’re looking for to save your child from drug addiction.

  1. Seek Medical Help

Visit the detox centers in your area and ask them for quick help. Usually, they will start by monitoring your child’s activities and determine the extent of addiction and appropriately take steps to help your child overcome opioid addiction. That includes opioid antidotes such as trazadone and Chloral hydrate to control nervous problems and restlessness and lead to proper sleep in the night. The personal treatment plan that most detox facilities suggest could be very effective in dealing with addiction recovery. It includes medical support and counseling as well.

 Final Thoughts

Opioid addiction is a disease, and it can’t be cured in a single day. it requires a step-by-step procedure from basic to higher level recovery options. Follow the advice mentioned above, and you will be able to give some relief to your addicted son/daughter.

AUTHOR BIO

Joshna Roy - Withdrawl Ease - guest blogger - May 2016

Joshna Roy is the writer and social media strategist at withdrawal-ease.com, a blog that educates readers on detox and withdrawal options for Opioid addicts. She is a health and fitness expert and writes mostly on topics relating to health, psychology and paleontology.

Twelve-Step Rebellion

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This week’s guest blogger is Jay from @OneMindDharma who writes about finding serenity through meditation after years of trying to find it through traditional 12-step programs. It’s important for young people in recovery to find an approach that works for them rather than what works for people quite a bit older. Thank you, Jay, for sharing your experience with the #OYACommunity. MWM

I can give the story of my life quite simply. I was 12 years old when I started to drink. I would show up to punk shows drunk because I felt self conscious about being so young around older kids and hoped that the smell of booze and the forced stumble would make me appear as cooler than I felt. I grew up to be addicted to opiates quite young and found heroin at 22. At 26 I decided to stop using drugs, was hospitalized and stayed in sober living for many months.

One of the things I can relate to with young people is the resistance to a 12 step program, and I congratulate you on this discovery. The fact that anybody has gone to something enough to realize that they like it is extraordinary if you think of the different tasks that acquiring drugs or alcohol entails. We become mindless when we’re going through the motions of getting high, that even a small fire wouldn’t have inconvenienced me much while I was loaded. But sober, the initial resistance is to be expected and deeply encouraged to push through.

The problem however is once you’ve gone to your first few meetings and you see the word, “God,” or you look around the room and there isn’t anybody similar to you. I was 19 at my first meeting and spent many nights in diners with folks who talked about their mortgage or even put on music in the car that made me want to jump out. I understand feeling misplaced, and so I commend you for this observation. This means one is aware, not simply “going through the motions.”

I would estimate that I went to 2,000 twelve step meetings before I turned 25. I tried to force myself to believe that “this would work for me.”

I tried to see drugs as this vacuum that could steal my soul by simply thinking about it– reciting, “brick wall,” for fear of being possessed. I would call my sponsor to ask permission to go on a date or to leave work early to catch a concert I wanted to see. He would ask, “is this Jay’s will or is it God’s will?” The idea was that any decision I was making was most likely harmful and going to lead to me getting loaded or with a needle in my arm. I appreciated this — this was the father figure I longed for for so many years.

Eventually though my life resembled somebody else’s life and I found little joy in my daily activities. The lack of luster I could live without, however I began feeling more and more alone. I started thinking in two different thought patterns– the 19 year old who wanted to be 19 and skip class to skateboard like any other 19 year old versus the 19 year old young man who was focusing on interest rates, responsibility and work ethic.

Neither is worse than the other, but I felt the focus was slipping from not wanting to get high into being a clone of my sponsor and his 40 plus years of life experience. So I began to rebel against his suggestions, and a satisfaction would come when I broke these rules. The same feeling, in fact, as getting high, which eventually led to me getting high.

And so for years this cycle would continue. I would push my drug runs to the brink of death so that I could feel this “bottom,” that they would all tell me I wasn’t finished using until I felt and experienced. The reality is that I was done and I didn’t need to feel ostracized or shamed for being a kid. Instead, I began to search for different methods of getting clean without the help of AA. One of these for me was NA for a short while. I liked the fellowship– it seemed to be a younger crowd. I didn’t like the steps, and I started to realize that that was okay. I believed for myself if I were to tell my deep dark secrets to anybody it should be a therapist, as that was who I felt comfortable telling these to. I didn’t mind paying for it, since my life was on the line.

My therapist eventually would say things like, “You have so much going on up there Jay, have you looked into meditating?” I had not.

And so my journey of meditation began. In the beginning I had candles and incense and would focus on the fronts of my eyelids and my breathing. In time, I found guided meditations and Buddhist principles.

I knew that quieting my mind and observing my thought patterns were both important, but I also wanted to grow as a person. I didn’t want to change who I was, I wanted to become a better version.

I finally met my teacher at a meditation meeting in Hollywood. He seemed to like the same music as me, could identify with my anger and my rebellion, and began to help me implement different principles and practices into my personal life.

One of the big ones was what the Eightfold Path refers to as “Right speech.” This, to me, means not to speak ill of anybody, and unless it’s absolutely necessary not to speak about anyone who isn’t around. Of course people have to be mentioned, but the way I mentioned them became a focal point. Even the way I said things seemed to have an undertone I wasn’t normal aware of. I began thinking before I spoke, and being mindful of the intentions behind my words.

Slowly, I meditated more and more frequently, and I noticed that the urges I had to use and to act out weren’t as prevalent. I also noticed that I started doing things in my free time that I enjoyed again, and surrounding myself with other people my age who didn’t care how I got clean, they just enjoyed the fact that I was myself.

Eventually I started working for my teacher, and am now the outreach director for his meditation company. At 27 years old I have over a year clean from everything, I bought my first car, I have two jobs, and

I’m becoming the version of myself I secretly knew I could be. For the most part I don’t do anything I don’t want to do or am required to do.

I live a life that I choose to live and it no longer feels forced.

We can choose to be who we wish to be in this world and anything truly is possible if the effort is there. So long as you’re trying you have a chance to make the change at anytime that you wish. Rebellion is the catalyst of change and true rebellion begins when you make the effort to change yourself. Meditation helps me, and if you’re struggling with finding your place in AA or any program utilize the wonders of the internet and find different means of recovery. There are meditation websites, there are online recovery communities, and there is meaning if you search for it. You’re too important to give up hope, and your place in this world is out there somewhere. I wish you well and hope you find it on your journey.

About Jay:

Jay is the community outreach director for Www.oneminddharma.com He works on an animal rescue ranch and enjoys playing music in his free time.

How Many Times Can a Son Break His Mom’s Heart?

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This week’s guest blogger is Chris from Sober City USA – the creator of Sober Cards. Now six years in recovery from an addiction that started in his teens, he reflects on one of his most important and valued relationships – the relationship with his mother. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your experience with our readers. MWM.

That question weighed heavy on my mind while I was in treatment.  I guessed I had probably lost count after a hundred and that was before I got into my late twenties.  I am an alcoholic, a drug addict, a child of an alcoholic and drug addict, and a child of an amazingly wonderful woman.  I am also a 39 year old momma’s boy, born a momma’s boy and always will be one.

My mom is the most incredible and amazing woman on the planet.  She would do anything to make you feel special and feel like the most important person in the room. There is not a mean bone in her body and she doesn’t have a mean thing to say about anyone.  She finds the beauty in everyone. So why was it easy for me to break her heart for 15 straight years?  Because I’m an addict, and nothing mattered more to me than my drugs and my alcohol.  I didn’t care who I was hurting, even the most important people (woman) in my life.

I started drinking when I was 17, consistently blacking out by 18 and actively abusing drugs by the age of 23. I guess you could say I was destined to be an alcoholic. My dad is an alcoholic (in recovery), his dad was and his grandfather before that was an alcoholic.  To top it, my mom’s dad was an alcoholic and many of my first cousins are alcoholics (most in recovery now).  Addiction runs thick in our family blood line.

Just so you don’t think I’m a total piece of shit son, I’m going to condense the heartbreak moments to just a few, and save all of us from a drunk log. I do feel it necessary for you to understand the hurt I caused and hopefully after reading this, you can take something positive away from it.

All my mom wanted to do was love me, hold me, tell me everything was going to be OK. She wanted to spend time with me, be my parent, give me advice and tell me life was going to turn out OK.  My mom wanted to know about me, my life, my friends and understand my world and tell me my world was OK.  When I was in active addiction I never let her in.  I always kept her at a distance, because I was hiding a deep dark secret: I was an alcoholic drug addict.

When I would come home from college to visit for long weekends and holidays, my mom would beg me not to stay out late and to be in bed early.  Looking back, it was because she never slept when I was out.  She stayed up all night praying that I would come home in one piece.  She tossed and turned, praying till 8a most mornings!  The nights I did come home, I would wake everyone up in the family, by accident (I was not a pleasant drunk man). Even though at first everyone loved having me home, I quickly wore out my welcome.

My parents hated the idea of me moving to Los Angeles.  They knew I was border lining alcoholism, they just didn’t know how bad it had gotten when I moved to LA.  Yet, they still wanted to spend time with me and visit.  Having them out to visit was hard work.  I was hiding a drug fueled lifestyle that didn’t know any boundaries.  When they would visit, night would come, they would go to bed, and as soon as they were a sleep, my night would start.  Drugs, alcohol, sneaking out to meet friends (like I was in high school) and staying out all night; causing me to either sleep the entire next day or be a total moody asshole running on fumes. My parents spent a ton of money and energy to visit me; I treated them like second class citizens while they were there.  My addiction didn’t care who got treated poorly.

I’ve always lived in a different city than my parents, only a few hours away in distance. There were hundreds of times they came to visit me. I usually lied to them on why they couldn’t stay with me. Truth was, I wanted to party. I could never take just one weekend off of drinking to spend time with them.  I made my parents stay in a hotel and what’s worse, I acted as if I was doing everyone a favor by meeting them out for dinner.

It was a nightmare when my brothers came in town and all 4 of us went out to raise hell.  I was the leader and my brothers always followed me into a drug and alcohol induced weekend every time we got together.  My mom and dad hated it when we went out together!  I was an awful role model and certainly not acting like the ‘good-boy’ son my mom had raised. My addiction only cared about the party, and I bulldozed anyone who stood in my way of that, including my mom.

There was a time my mom came in town to make my favorite dinner because we had been missing each other for months. I stayed out from the night before till about 30 minutes before she showed up.  I was drugged out of my mind and hadn’t slept for 3 days.  As soon as my mom arrived, (she knew something wasn’t right) I showed her to the kitchen, the pots/pans and ingredients and then went right to bed.  She cooked alone for 3 hours hoping her meal would make me feel better.  I never woke up. I slept right through the night and missed her dinner. My addiction did not care about dinner with my mom!

The asshole icing on the cake was on May 31st, my mother’s birthday.  It was a beautiful Sunday, all of my family was having an early evening bbq for her and I didn’t show up.  What’s worse; I didn’t even call her that day to wish her a ‘happy birthday’.  I had been sleeping off a 3-day binge and was nowhere to be found.  She called me later that night to tell me I had missed her birthday, she was crying and very upset.  That was the low of the lows. I was so far gone into drug addiction and alcoholism.  I thought the missing birthday ‘glitch’ was just a temporary feeling. I convinced myself it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought by saying sorry, all would be good.  Unfortunately, that was the one that really affected our relationship. Addiction was ruining my relationship with my mom.

I literally broke my mother’s heart daily when I was abusing drugs. I broke promises, I was so unreliable, there were hundreds of embarrassing moments, there were times my mom had begged me to stop, only to be made a fool over and over again by my actions.  Unfortunately, heartbreak by her oldest son had become the new normal in our relationship and my addiction did not care.

Unbeknownst to me, my mom was going to church every week to light a candle for me. She knew I was in trouble and could sense things were not going to end well.  She was asking for me to get help, asking for God to watch over me and get me to a place where I could start to  heal and live a clean life.

What’s so amazingly true and perfect about this story: God worked his magic the day I entered treatment.  I hit my limit: I had spent four straight days using and abusing and was rushed to the emergency room.  That next morning, my brothers showed up, they told me they had booked me a room at a residential treatment program and I would be there for the next 30 days.  My mom had not heard the news until later that evening when I called her.  She was actually at church that very morning saying a prayer, lighting a candle and begging God to help me.

While I skidded into rehab, my experience there was very positive.  I spent many days uncovering layers of myself, finding out who I was deep inside, and who I was without the drugs and alcohol. Still a momma’s boy and a grown ass man now with a long-list of amends to make to his mom.

Two weeks into my treatment program, I received a letter stamped from home and in my mom’s handwriting.  I opened it and there were 10 hand written pages, full of every heartbreaking moment that I had caused her because of my addiction.  It highlighted all of the shitty things I did (sort of like a fourth step for moms/Al-Anon if you will) Reading those things, in her words; while I was starting to get my clean mind back was so moving, so crushing and upsetting to me.  It broke me to relive all of those moments and to hear my mom’s heartache.  I was crushed. I had some work to do.

My family came to visit me over Easter Weekend.  After dinner, I asked my mom to go for a walk, just her and I.  We walked around this beautiful lake as the sun was setting and I told her something I had learned while in treatment.  My chaplain talked about Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd.’  He told us that when sheep would walk away from the herd over and over again, shepherds would have to break the back legs of the sheep to prevent them from continuing that and potentially getting killed by prey.  This taught sheep a valuable lesson to not act out and to stay safe inside the herd. (That’s why you see so many biblical images of the Shepherd with a sheep around His neck, nursing them back to health and safety)  My chaplain often asked me – do you feel like your back legs have been broken

I told my mom for the past few years, I was so sick that I didn’t realize the damage and heartbreak I was causing her.  I told her my back legs were broke and how sorry I was for everything I had put her through.  As I started to bring up each instance with her, she embraced me and told me she loved me and that we never have to go back to that. I told her I never wanted to either.  We were both crying and it felt so good to be back in my mom’s arms again, as the ‘good-boy’ she had always wanted.

I am 6 years clean and sober and my relationship with my mother has never been better. That insanely sick time in my life, the ups and downs (mostly downs) with her, has taught me the wonderful meaning of unconditional love.  It has taught me about forgiveness, it has taught me how to treat other people. I have learned so much from my mom and the way she treated me during my active addiction.  She is still the most amazing and wonderful woman and without her love and support, I could not have done this.  Sometimes we hurt the the most, the ones we love the most.  And the ones that love us the most always keep coming back hoping for a different day.  I’m so grateful my mom and I have a different day now!!

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About Chris:
Chris is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with 6 years of sobriety.  He is very active in the recovery community and loves to spend time spreading the great message of recovery.  He created Sober Cards TM, to help people get sober and stay sober.  These came directly from his experience in treatment, where they told him, ‘Idle hands are the devil’s playground’ and recited many more sober slogans.  Thousands of decks have been sold and his hope is that everyone trying to get sober has access to them. Sober City USA was launched in 2015 to show the world that there is this awesome enthusiasm for recovery and an excitement for life on the other side of the drugs and alcohol.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Parenting in Recovery

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

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

Parenting In Recovery

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

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

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

Talking To My Kids About Substances And Addiction

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

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

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

Real Education

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

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

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

Fun is important for kids and grown-ups alike

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

What If They Become Addicted?

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

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

About This Week’s Guest Blogger

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

You can find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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A Dad’s Perspective on the Impact of Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Spring Break, Part Two: New York State of Mind

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Wishing you the best for a wonderful spring break,

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Sober Son is Still Climbing. Me, too!

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Twelve years ago, on a family vacation to Montana – before addiction arrived in our family – I discovered hiking. It was one of the most unexpected and exhilarating endeavors I had ever experienced.

Almost immediately, I saw parallels between hiking and my professional life. Hiking involved perseverance, focus and stamina. Even more importantly, I discovered that it required carefully staying on a rugged trail, one foot in front of the other, while also requiring that I look ahead to where I was going. And even more important than that, it also brought immense satisfaction when I paused to look back and see how far I’d come.

One hike in particular sticks in my mind. My daughter, Sober Son and I set out with family friends who were experienced hikers. We trusted them and knew they would guide us. We believed we would make it to the pay off – a beautiful mountain-top lake. But first we had to hoof it up a tough elevation (several thousand feet) with seemingly never-ending switchbacks, then wander along a deeply forested path, then cross a wide-open meadow before veering off to our destination. Several hours and miles later, we made it. We were so proud of ourselves. That feeling stays with me to this day.

A few years later, this time with my husband and our youngest son as well as another family, we made the trek again. Another eureka moment hit me: Hiking also paralleled my personal life. At this point, our Sober Son was starting to struggle but we didn’t really know the cause or implications. We think this is about the time he was starting to use marijuana back home with a neighbor kid. This time, I had a new realization:

I realized that life is a hike and even when it’s hard, it can be enjoyable and immensely fulfilling no matter what the trail brings.

Summer after summer, I looked forward to more mountain hikes, clearing my head and taking in life.

During these next years, Sober Son was not with us on family vacation. The hikes were cathartic for me even as I wished he was with us because he’s always been a climber – the two year old on the playground who scaled the monkey bars when other toddlers were content in the safety swing.

I prayed and wished him the return of these healthy feelings on his own terms.

Although the trail of addiction was full of detours for Sober Son and our family, we never stopped hiking our way through it all. Today’s hikes, gratefully, are about sobriety and recovery and about all the new trails ahead.

This really hit me on a mother-son spring break trip last week to Nevada. Sober Son and I hiked new trails. These ones, albeit vastly different terrain from Montana, offered a similar experience in terms of exhilaration and large rocks perfectly formed for climbing, and Sober Son scaled new heights and experienced once again the delight of pursuit and accomplishment, metaphorically, physically and emotionally. I have such faith in his continued journey and am so grateful for the opportunity to climb with him.

Midwestern Mama

 

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

I Thought I Was Different, I was Unique

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

Tree in Water - Rose L - Unique

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Rose Landes

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

 You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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The News No One Wants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Soup on Sunday

Traditions sustain us, even when we’re unable to participate emotionally or physically. Midwestern Mama describes a family tradition of “soup on Sunday” that has endured her son’s addiction and now embraces his recovery.

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Sundays have always been our family days. With our first two children, we’d drive out to the lake to visit their two great grandmas and their great, great grandma. One of my favorite family photos includes the five generations – my two kids, their dad and uncle, their grandpa, their great grandma and their great great grandma. 

While the kids don’t really remember these days, they did come to know that Sundays were for family. When the Greats passed away, we continued family-focused Sundays. This might involve a nature walk, a trip to the zoo or a visit to Camp Snoopy at Mall of America. Sometimes we’d just “see where the car took us.” No matter what, it almost always included a special meal together and a visit with Grandma and Grandpa at their house.

Life got busier and busier as the kids grew older, but even when kid number three arrived we still reserved Sunday for some sort of extended family gathering that often involved aunts, uncles and cousins.

One of the early clues that #SoberSon was struggling was when he didn’t want to participate in family Sundays. His grandpa passed away at the end of junior year in high school and this coincided with a number of attitude and behavior changes. Oh, he’d show up if we insisted – and we did. He’d be nice to the relatives, but resentful toward us for disrupting his plans. We worried about what was going on and had our suspicions.

Interestingly, a few years later when our son’s addiction was in full swing, he started showing up again. Not every Sunday, but for quite a few. The family treated him well – in fact, almost as the honored guest. He’d eat, shower, and sleep before heading out again for days or weeks.

Our Sundays continued with or without #SoberSon. Deep down it was reminder to him, to all of us, that the tradition exists in our family and that it endures no matter the ups and downs that life brings. And endure, it does. Now 19 months in recovery, the Sunday tradition is a priority for #SoberSon and he makes it to as many as he can, work schedule permitting.

Each week, some combination of family members gathers at Grandma’s house on Sunday afternoon to enjoy a bowl of soup (or sometimes take-out Chinese or pizza). The cousins are now 8, 15, 18, 19, 23 and 26, and it just wouldn’t be Sunday without some family time.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Amends: The Hardest One, Was To Myself

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This week’s guest blogger, Rose Landes, writes about the importance of making amends. For parents and for their loved ones in recovery, there is a point when each has to make amends to oneself. It’s not easy, but it is an incredible turning point on this journey from addiction to recovery.

As strange as it may sound, I looked forward to Step 9. In a 12-step program this is the step where you attempt to clean your side of the street and accept responsibility for the harm you’ve caused. Amends provide the bridge to help rebuild relationships. Typically people are not fond of this step.

For an addict, the word “sorry” has been an empty promise that we have made too many times. Even though we truly mean it, in that moment, we are unable to keep our word in the face of addiction.

When I sat down with my 12-step sponsor, I was nervous and unsure of myself, questioning if I had done it right ie-(perfectionist)– shocker right!   My sponsor has reminded me over and over, there is no perfect way to do the steps. As I went over my list I felt relief as I could finally let go and move forward from my past. I was making things right.

When I got through my list my sponsor paused, looking at me she said “Do you think you forgot someone?”

What? I panicked I had wracked my brain writing this list, who could I have missed?

She looked at me waiting, and it dawned on me. Who did I hate the most? Who did I punish on a regular basis?

Me—I was filled with self loathing and disgust after years of self destructive behavior. I really did owe an amends to myself.

What was stopping me? Well, the reality is, I was not ready to forgive myself.

An Amends To Myself

Before I even went to treatment, I realized that how I felt, thought, and treated myself usually mirrored how I interacted with those around me. What I mean is that how I treated myself, was how I treated anyone who was in my life.

I had to forgive myself to complete this step.

My sponsor encouraged me to write this amends. I spent a couple of days coming up with excuses why this was not needed in my case. Imagine that, me, thinking I was unique. I’m not an alcoholic, right? I still wanted to punish myself, as if somehow, this would make up for all the pain I had created in the lives of those I loved.

I worked my way through my amends list starting with my family, children and close friends. As I repaired the wreckage in my past I began to feel this sense of peace that I really can’t explain. Other than to say I had a glimpse of what serenity is. My family has encouraged me to continue doing what I am doing. They just want to see me happy. To be a functioning member of society that can contribute to life and not take everything for granted. They all just wanted to see me reach the potential I had wasted for so long. As for my children they just want to see me happy and present.

Their reactions helped me see my value as a person. If they could accept my apology why couldn’t I accept one to myself? And so I began the process of forgiving myself. I say process because it is an ongoing everyday thing. I have to learn a new way of thinking about myself.

Then It Clicked!

I wrote my list: Painful is putting it lightly. It hurt to see on paper the damage I intentionally did to myself. No wonder I hurt those around me. I had no idea how to love myself. I spent years doing things to make sure that I was unlovable and that I lived up to the lies I told myself. In the end, the list gave me an idea of what I needed to work on. I had to make a commitment to myself to not repeat them.

That is the most important part. We are saying that moving forward you will make an effort to change and not repeat your mistakes.

Obviously I don’t always follow through or make the right choice. That’s ok and this is where the cheesy slogans of my 12-step program help me see that what it’s really about. Progress and not perfection.

Once I did this, I had a new awareness of how I treated myself on a daily basis. My sponsor asked me if the way I treated myself was how I would treat a best friend. I really heard that, and it did make a difference.

Why An Amends To Myself Was The Most Important

Making that amends began to change the way I saw and treated myself. When you are treating yourself with respect, you tend to treat others with respect, as well. With this newfound respect for myself. I was now, able to do all those “self” affirmations they teach you in treatment. What followed was beautiful, I no longer was a “taker” in life. Instead I began to see the reward of being a “giver”. The most important effect it had, was I finally set boundaries with myself and others. No longer did I have to tolerate others treating me badly. Without guilt I could be assertive and protect myself.

Making An Amends To Yourself

Do you owe yourself an amends? I think that is an important question you should ask yourself. From my experience if you are struggling with self destructive behaviour, then maybe you should consider this. For me this was a life changing decision. I have a taste of what it means to be content with life and yourself.

Think about how you treat yourself, or how you have treated yourself in the past. Make a living amends by being kind to yourself, and see the difference it makes in your life.

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

Find Rose Landes on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Second Chances – Puppy Love Part II

We hear a lot about service as an important part of recovery. Midwestern Mama observes #SoberSon experience the boost in self-esteem that comes from helping others – this time, a rescue puppy who needs a home.

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Just as there is no one-size-fits-all treatment program, the same should be said for recovery. My son floundered in traditional approaches yet has thrived in the past 18 months through a guided, but self-directed program. In addition to counselors and family members, our family dog has been a central part of his recovery, and most recently, a new dog has offered him an opportunity to grow.

Enter a two-year-old pit-bull mix from a local adoption program that works through foster homes instead of shelters. Our daughter and son in law are fostering the puppy until it gets its “forever” home. Because they work overlapping full-time schedules, there are some points during the day when they need someone to let out the dog, take it for walks, and give it some love.

Enter #SoberSon. His spring semester college schedule has him wrapping up classes by early afternoon a couple days each week, so he’s able to take on dog duty those days. Not only is this another example of the growing trust that our family now has in our son – he has a key to their house – it’s an awesome opportunity for him to volunteer his time in exchange for tail wags and dog kisses!

He realizes that he’s saving the dog’s life and helping it heal from whatever past it may have had.

He commented the other day that, “it’s all about giving him a second chance.” My heart melted because, I think he realizes that he, too, got a second chance when he embraced treatment, sobriety and recovery.

In a few weeks, this dog will go to its new home and when it does, it will go with its own renewed sense of trust in people and belief that the world can be an awesome place

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Puppy Love at First Sight

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

Welcome Home Puppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Facing Reality: How One Call Saved My Little Brother

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I will never forget the phone call. I was watching TV at my parents’ house, where I was living at the time after graduating from college earlier that year. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My phone rang, and I saw my little brother’s best friend, Dan, show up on my phone’s caller ID. My brother had left the day before to go back to the University of Colorado, where he was in his first semester of his freshman year. Dan had been my brother’s best friend for almost 10 years, and I doubt anyone in the world knew my brother better. While Dan and I were friendly, someone I considered my friend too, it was rare for us to talk without my brother around, let alone call each other on the phone.

I answered the phone puzzled — wondering why Dan was calling me — asking the expected, “Hey, man. What’s up? How you doing?”

“I think your brother has a drug problem,” Dan said with a combination of confidence and disappointment. My brother had just been back for an entire week for Thanksgiving break, a time when most kids his age return home and reunite with their high school friends whom they have not seen since the summer before they left for school. “He was so barred-out (term for abusing Xanax) this entire week, we couldn’t even get him out of his bed to come hang out with everyone,” Dan said.

I knew for a long time that my brother’s drug use was extreme. His high school years were one big blur of drug use starting with smoking marijuana and including everything from cocaine, mushrooms, MDMA, booze, and I am sure everything in between that I never actually saw him use. Sure, my brother liked to have fun, but what high school kid did not? Who was I to say he had a drug problem? My brother did not have a drug problem; people with drug problems were dirty junkies who were incapable of doing normal, everyday things. That was not my brother, right?

For the next week, I thought about what Dan told me every day. I did not know how to tell my parents or if I even should tell my parents. I viewed rehab as the end. The end of my brother’s normal life, the end of the brother I knew. What if I told my parents this and he really did not have a drug problem? What if I told my parents and he ended up hating me because of it? What if I told my parents and they sent him off to rehab when he really just needed time to figure things out, like most college kids did?

Freshman year is hard, and it is a time of transition. I knew I had taken time to adjust and grow up a little bit when I was a freshman in college; maybe that was all my brother needed, too?

From there, I struggled with whether I should talk to my brother. Would he admit he had a problem if he did, or would he just tell me what I wanted to hear so badly — that he did not have a problem? Like a lot of high school kids, my brother would lie about where he was, who he was hanging out with, and what he was doing when he was out with his friends smoking weed, drinking, or going to concerts and doing molly or other drugs. Could I really trust what he told me was the truth if I did talk to him?

Questions like these swirled in my head as I battled my emotions and tried to come to terms with the most rational course of action to make sure my brother would be okay. He was always an incredibly social kid. He had a ton of friends, and the party usually started when he arrived. I knew he smoked weed, drank, occasionally took a harder drug like cocaine, but binging on Xanax? Popping pills to the point that he became a shell of who he was, to where he could not even interact with friends he had not seen in months? That was not my brother.

By Wednesday, I knew I had to tell my parents. I was terrified. I felt like it would have been easier to tell them I had a drug addiction than to tell them that I thought my brother did. Even though I knew I had to tell my parents, I could not muster the courage to do it until that Sunday night.

It was after our weekly Sunday night family dinner. My dad had the Sunday night NFL game on while my mom finished washing the dinner dishes. Walking down the stairs from my room to where my parents were in the family room felt like a slow walk to the electric chair. The weight of knowing what was happening to my brother was eating me alive. All week, an immovable wave of fear and anxiety that started at my core and tingled out to my fingertips and toes surrounded me like a knight’s suit of armor. The only way to shed the metal suit would be to break the news to my parents that their youngest son had a drug problem.

When I finally told my parents, they did not seem surprised; a part of them must have already known he had a problem. I told them about what Dan said about my brother using Xanax. I told them about the countless times I had seen him snort coke, take molly, and eat mushrooms in high school. I told them about how I struggled all week with whether or not I thought my brother had a drug addiction and that the only conclusion I could come to was that he did and that he needed help.

My mom flew out to Denver the next day to confront my brother about getting help. He admitted immediately to my mom that he was addicted to Xanax and was struggling with other drugs, too. He knew he needed help. Once he knew we were there for him and we were going to get him the help he needed, he never fought or denied it. He wanted to get help; he just never knew how to ask for it.

My brother entered an inpatient treatment center the next week. I would love to tell you that everything was smooth sailing after that but it was not. He stayed sober at first, but a couple months after his first stint in treatment, he relapsed into a cycle of severe drug abuse and hit rock bottom. While treatment was not immediately effective, it was the first step in his road to recovery.

He eventually did get the help he needed. I am thankful every day that Dan called me that Sunday after Thanksgiving. Without him I doubt I would have ever come to the conclusion that my brother needed help on my own. If I had, would it have been too late to help him? That is a question I am happy I never had to answer.

Today, my brother is back at the University of Colorado. He is excelling in the classroom and often receives the highest grades in his class. He has an adorable rescue dog named Ellie who goes with him everywhere. He has a great group of friends who are active outdoorsman; they often go snowboarding, hiking and mountain climbing. He has also been sober for more than a year and a half.

Trey Dyer is a writer for http://www.DrugRehab.com and an advocate for inpatient rehab treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families.

 Contact Trey: tdyer@drugrehab.com

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.