What Parents Can Do If They Notice Signs of a Relapse in Their Recovering Teen

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Having a teenager in this day and age is hard work. As a parent, there are so many things to think about as your child begins to move into high school and beyond. You worry about him driving, whether or not he fits in, if he’ll do his homework and how peer pressure will affect him.

Sadly, a lot of teens these days turn to drugs and alcohol at a young age. When your child experiments with drugs and winds up addicted, it can be a very disheartening experience. From there, all you can do is try your best to support him in getting the help he needs.

teen info graphic

If you’re lucky enough to get your teen into treatment and recovery, the next phase is helping him remain sober.

This is no easy task. It takes patience and empathy to support a teenager who has battled addiction.

As parents, it’s important to be as educated as possible about the potential for relapse. Here’s what to look for and how to respond if you suspect your teen has relapsed.

What Are the Signs of Relapse?

The first thing you should understand about relapse is that it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a process that builds up over time in three stages: emotional, mental and physical.

Relapse usually begins with emotional states that may be very subtle, yet still very triggering. As it moves into the mental stage, your child may think about using or drinking and become aware of these thoughts. Finally, she gives into her emotions and thoughts, and the actual (physical) relapse occurs.

Relapse signs to watch out for include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Anger or frustration
  • Mood changes or irritability
  • Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Isolation and not being social with friends
  • Withdrawing and disengaging from family gatherings
  • Verbally romanticizing about using, saying things like she wishes she could take the edge off or it would be nice to escape
  • Demonstrating shaky behaviors, such as being dishonest or wanting to hang out with old friends you’ve identified as bad influences
  • Asking to visit places that may be a trigger, such as concerts, music festivals or house parties
  • Rationalizing or displaying extreme confidence, perhaps saying she’s okay now and “has things under control”

Keep in mind that the stages and signs of relapse are like dominoes that can quickly lead your child into a place where she picks up substances again because she’s built it up in her mind as the right thing to do.

What Should You Do If You Notice Signs of a Relapse in Your Recovering Teen?

First of all, don’t just assume that, once your child enters into recovery or returns from treatment, all is well and the addiction is over.

Recovery is a daily practice and needs ongoing monitoring. This means you need to keep a very close eye on your teen and maintain open lines of communication.

If your child begins to show signs of relapse, it can be frightening and overwhelming, as you may not be sure how to handle it. The best thing to do is remain calm while you work through your valid concerns. Start by realizing that you are not helpless and can head off a relapse before it happens.

Next, take action by speaking candidly to your teenager. Ask him how he feels, what kinds of thoughts he’s having and how you can support him. This step can be tricky, as you don’t want to interrogate him or make him feel like you’re angry with him. Take a non-aggressive approach by initiating a healthy conversation with your teen about what’s going on so you can work together to find a resolution.

It’s also a good idea to involve a therapist trained in recovery aftercare or speak to your teen’s treatment center about aftercare services it offers.

“One of the biggest changes in our lives has been the repairing of relationships within our family.” – Katie D. shares on her daughters recovery journey with Heroes in Recovery.

Often, relapse signs mean your teen may not be integrating back into normal life as easily as he had hoped and may be struggling to find a sense of routine or comfort.

Stay active in encouraging him, and be as compassionate to his needs as possible. Remember, your recovering teen can always get back on track, return to recovery and seek more help if he needs it, as long as you stay vigilant.

Carly Benson, a writer for The Life Challenge
As an avid traveler, yogi & confessed self-help junkie, Carly writes about her adventures in life & sobriety on www.MiraclesAreBrewing.com where she offers inspirational concepts & coaching for recovery, faith & living an intentional life.

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

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Right Reserved

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right around the first of the year … January 2017

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

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

Welcoming us on family night … November 1, 2017.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Still Letting Go

Midwestern Mama shares a poem that provides comfort and affirmation as her son begins a new in-patient treatment program.

The first time my son went to treatment, he ran away on day No. 9. It was no surprise, but still it was devastating. Six and a half years later, he’s back at treatment following a relapse after a few years of sobriety and recovery. It’s his third time at an in-patient, residential program. He’s also participated in three high-intensity out-patient programs.

Once again, we are letting go knowing we have brought him to a place that is his to embrace.

In a small book called House Blessings – Prayers, Poems, and Toasts Celebrating Home and Family, I found a poem during those terrifying days of 2011 called, “Letting Go.” It was as relevant then as it is today.

Letting Go by Sandra E. McBride

I’ve brought you to the mountain … the climb is yours.

I’ve brought you to the shore … the sea is yours.

I’ve brought you to the sky … the wings are yours.

I’ve brought you through the shadows … the light is yours.

I’ve brought you to this day … tomorrow yours.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

Car Keys

It’s been a long, long week*. A week ago Friday, our son left and we didn’t hear from him until he walked back in the house the following Friday morning.

He was cold and his hands were shaking as he held out his car keys and wallet, asking, “Would you hold onto these for awhile?”.

This was followed by hugs and a brief conversation. Then he took a warm shower, made himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, took the dog for a walk, and settled in for a long nap followed by another walk with the dog.

Here’s hoping this week brings clarity and positive steps forward.

*Read The Third R blog post for details.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Third R

An update from Midwestern Mama on #SoberSon and his recent Return to Use aka Relapse.

Ordinarily when I think R & R, it conjures up the concept of rest and relaxation. However, when it comes to addiction and mental health, the R words that I think of are Relapse and Recovery. Oh, and there’s one more: Ready.

2017 has been a struggle for my son. He’s maintained sobriety from opiate use, but began using cannabis and drinking alcohol again. He thinks of it as self medicating, yet his mental health is suffering, not improving.

It came to a head this summer. To top it off, he decided to stop taking Suboxone – almost cold turkey instead of a slow taper with support from his treatment team. The effect is terrible. He’s irritable and agitated. The cravings are strong. Anxiety and depression are ever present and getting worse.

“I feel great. Everything is good. Never felt better,” he tells us. But we know better, and so does the dog. (Read my recent posts, The Dog Knows and The Birthday Cake.)

Last week he admitted that things aren’t working and that he hadn’t anticipated the impact of going off Suboxone. To his credit, he made an appointment with a mental-health professional and decided to go on an anti-depressant. Of course, they counseled him about the risks of using marijuana and alcohol while taking the medication.

No more than a few days into the new approach, he left one morning and didn’t come home later in the day to get ready for work. He didn’t go to work that evening. He didn’t come home that night. He didn’t respond to text messages or phone calls. The next day, he didn’t show up at home or work, and still wasn’t responding to outreach. His medication was on his dresser. The day after that, he still hadn’t made contact – with us or with any of his friends.

He’s 25 – an adult. We give him space and let him take responsibility for his life and decisions. In years past, he reacted terribly when we intervened claiming we were overreacting – that’s the addiction talking.

In the three years he’s been in recovery from opiate use, he’s never missed work. He’s always kept us posted on his whereabouts and work schedule. He’s always let us know if he was going to stay at friends for the evening.

Given this, you can imagine our concern and worry. This behavior was out of the ordinary. Where was he? Had something tragic happened?

Through the grapevine, we learned he texted a co-worker that he’d been picked up for public intoxication and was being taken to detox. Two days later he texted the co-worker, “I’m out :)”.

It’s concerning, but we are grateful he’s alive. Now, we’re wondering what is next.

It’s now been another 24 hours and he hasn’t come home or responded to our outreach.

In our hearts, we know he’s hurting and we know he’s resistant to help – always wanting to do it “on his own.”

We don’t take it personally. We’re not mad. We’re not going to yell at him or lecture him. We’re simply concerned and want to be supportive. We want to have communication. We want to have him in our lives. We want him to come home.

This all reminds me of the earlier days of his addiction journey, which further reminds me that recovery is possible and available to him, again, when he is ready.

Ready. That’s the third R, and that’s the one I want most for #SoberSonNotRightNow

MWM

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

The Dog Knows

Our family dog is the best-ever LADC (licensed alcohol and drug counselor). This rescue mutt came to us in early 2013. He was 14 weeks old and 19 pounds. 

Little did we know what a prominent role he would play in our family – particularly in our son’s life as he lives through addiction, sobriety, recovery and relapse.

At the time, our son was 19 and he was deep on his addiction path. 

Although I had hope, I realistically knew that tragedy was a distinct possibility.

 He was bouncing between living at home, sofa surfing and being homeless.

He was every bit as much in need of rescue as our sweet puppy.

Watching our son meet and interact with the puppy was pure delight. His heart showed. A smile returned. A tenderness came forth. Although he was struggling, he always had a few minutes to play with the puppy, take him outside to go potty and take him for walks around the neighborhood.

It was a bright spot for all of us to observe the bond and it was a reminder that there was a happier, healthier young man waiting to emerge from addiction.

It didn’t happen right away, of course, and even when he decided to go to treatment about a year later it also included a devastating and rapid relapse that once again reminded us how fragile addiction renders its young adults.

Later that year, he would decide again to pursue treatment, sobriety and recovery. This time it took. Our son was three years free from opiate use in July 2017. During this time, he got a job, earned money to return to college and got straight A’s in his classes.

Through it all, the family dog was his constant companion giving new meaning to the cliche “man’s best friend.”

They spent many hours together. The love between the two warmed our hearts, and each one thrived in many ways.

But then there was a shift. Tiny at first, but unsettling. Then another shift, and then another and another.

Here we are eight months later. Our son’s personality – characterized by attitude, mood and behavior – has changed significantly.

We’re all too familiar with his current state and fear the direction it’s headed.

Exaggeration? No. It’s a pattern we recognize, a pattern we’ve experienced before, a pattern we do not welcome but that we must acknowledge regardless. It’s no longer just mom’s and dad’s radar, it’s the dog’s too.

Without a doubt, the dog knows. He waits by the mudroom door.

When will my guy return he wonders. When are we going for an adventure he wonders. When will we hang out together he wonders. Why is my guy always sleeping when he’s home? Why won’t he talk nicely with Mom and Dad? Why didn’t he celebrate his birthday? Why do I see his car down the street instead of coming home? Why did he come home and go right to his room? Why did he leave in the middle of the night? Will he come back?

The routine has changed, and our dog doesn’t understand. He doesn’t want to eat. He just wants to wait for his guy and get back to the sober, recovery days.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

 

The Road to Finding Higher Power and Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author: 

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

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

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

The Birthday Cake

Homemade chocolate cake with caramel frosting. That’s become the family birthday cake of choice. Year after year for all three kids. That’s the cake.

One year our middle son wondered if we could add an ice-cream layer. A tall order, but Mom figured it out. When our daughter became a vegan, Mom even figured out how to adapt the recipe. Gluten-free?  No problem. Cupcakes instead of layer cake? Yep, can do. Whatever the family needed or wanted, our traditional birthday cake has marked each and every birthday.

This year, our middle son is struggling – with depression, with anxiety, with cannabis use (including marijuana and CDB oil) as a means to self medicate, and he’s decided to quickly taper off Suboxone for his opioid-use disorder.

He’s in a mood, and yesterday’s birthday was no exception.

It’s a concerning observation after three years of recovery and getting his life back in order. Sure, it’s summer, so maybe things will come back into routine and alignment once his college classes start up again next week. I fear I am just hoping, pretending, not wanting this to be relapse, a return to use, not wanting this to be the slippery slope.

But this is a slippery slope and it’s one we’ve watched our son go down before. Even though we can see it, we can’t prevent this 25 year old from going near the edge and possibly slipping and sliding.

As I made the cake a day ahead, in preparation for the busy work week, I told my husband I was feeling sad because I knew I was making a cake for someone who didn’t really want a cake this year. We talked about how the cake is not just for the birthday boy, but also for all the family and friends who celebrate his life. The cake is a symbolic reminder of how much we love the person who is part of our lives and how much we look forward to the year ahead.

The birthday morning arrived and our son wandered down the street to his friend’s house where he spent the better part of the day. When he came home around dinner time, he went upstairs, showered and went to bed. A few hours later, he took the dog for a walk, and when he returned we said Happy Birthday.

Thanks, he said. Then he told us we could go on without him. It’s just another day, he said. He didn’t open his cards or presents. He didn’t say another word. He just went back upstairs and went to bed.

There sat the beautiful cake. This year’s version was a slight variation – salted caramel, butter cream frosting. Dad, younger brother and I just sat there and salivated for a piece of cake but with a sudden lack of appetite. Although there were no candles on the cake, it felt like someone blew out the candles before we even began singing Happy Birthday. It just felt empty, sad, lonely.

It felt wrong to cut the cake without the birthday boy.

But it also felt wrong not to. So we did, and yes it was delicious but it was anything but satisfying.

Rationally, we know our son is in pain and suffering.

We know he needs help and needs our support. From experience, we know that we can’t just expect it or control it so our gift to him is unconditional love and support. Just like the birthday cake, it is the gift he gets even if he doesn’t want it right now.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved

 

The Trek to Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

#TBT – Not Using is Not the Same as Recovering – Relapse in the Making

In spring 2012, Midwestern Mama’s son was not using, but he wasn’t exactly embracing treatment, sobriety or recovery. Here is a column where she explores the concerning pattern, which repeated itself many times through many relapses.

A Real Mom – Not using isn’t same as recovering 3-19-12

Fortunately, in 2014 and continuing forward, my son has embraced sobriety and recovery in a much more encouraging way. We have transitioned from hope to belief!

School’s Out for Summer – Overcoming Addiction

After a successful return to college, Midwestern Mama’s son is taking a break from classes this summer with plans to return in the fall. Without the structure and routine of classes, homework and studying, how will he spend his time this summer?

School's Out for Summer

Three things have undermined my son’s experience with overcoming addiction: time on his hands, boredom and money. When one or more of these has been present, his drug use would take control. Now, 10 months sober he is learning to work through these- even though summer without college classes could present a challenge.

During Addiction:

Time: When very little interests you, even amid commitments like school, sports and a part-time job, you end up with a lot of time on your hands. When you no longer have to go to school and you don’t have sports or a job, then you sit around a lot. Sitting around leads to boredom.

Boredom: More than anything, my son has been living with boredom most of his life. Before drugs, he would easily get bored even with seemingly exciting things to engage his interest. No matter what, I can’t solve this for him. Even in his sobriety, not much interests him. He craves excitement, yet nothing ever seems to capture his attention for long.

He cites boredom as one of the main reasons he was curious to try marijuana as a teenager. It wasn’t peer pressure or wanting to fit it; it was curiosity. For a while, it certainly seemed that marijuana was his interest, his obsession really. Until, it wasn’t and then he was on to other drugs like opiates. Until, it was addiction and consequences, which controlled his ability or ambition to stop.

Money: From the time he was a little kid, money burned a hole in his pocket. At first, it was altruistically – putting all his birthday money in the donation jar at the zoo. Later, it was impulsively for instant gratification – buying a game or toy immediately and discovering it wasn’t as much fun as he thought it was going to be.

During addiction, having money from a part-time job meant he could fund his habit instead of saving for college (even though that wasn’t the agreement). Getting a tax refund meant, spending it on drugs. Getting gift cards meant selling these for drugs.

During Sobriety & Recovery:

Since going through treatment last summer and committing to sobriety and recovery during the past 10 months, he’s successfully addressed two out of three of these items – time on his hands and money.

Time: The treatment program plus part-time college classes and part-time job have filled his time while still allowing him the downtime that he needs to get through each day. However, with school out, he now has four days a week where he doesn’t have a time commitment. He’d like to increase his work schedule to cover the available hours and to earn more money for things like tuition in the fall and buying a car.

Money: The part-time job has helped him pay off debts incurred during addiction and has given him spending cash to buy some new clothes, get presents for family members on their birthdays, go to a movie, etc. Because he has set some goals such as school in the fall and getting a car, he seems more committed to saving money instead of spending it as impulsively as in the past.

Boredom: This remains the kicker. He still goes through the motions without a lot of zest or interest – save for the family dog. He doesn’t have much of a social life. This is the piece that’s been on my mind. At least with school schedule over the past semester, he had built in commitment and now he’s just got the part-time job …which means could have time on this hands and money … which means????

Time will tell. We’ve had a few conversations about the new routine. In the past, these conversations would have gone nowhere, and although I don’t have a sense what what’s going to happen I am more confident than ever before that he’s aware of the triggers and will come through with a plan that works for him. Silly me, I just wish I knew what it was! #SoberSummer

Midwestern Mama

P.S. Just as we headed into the Memorial Day weekend, my son completed an application to transfer from community college to a bachelor’s degree program at a local university. In doing so, he had to secure a transcript (albeit a blank one) from the college he briefly attended after high school; there was a hold on his account due to a fine for underage drinking and for possession of marijuana in the dorms – one of the pivotal lows of his addiction and the one that got him kicked out. Now four and a half years later, he paid this and signed up for extra hours at work to cover the expense. How far he’s come this year!

Where’s the reset button? It’s time to reboot.

Techie or not, most of us know that when something electronic is not working that hitting the reset button – rebooting – is often the best thing to do.  Amateurs and professionals alike suggest it as a first course of action.  Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

It got me thinking that we have hit the reset button and attempted to reboot many times since addiction started messing with our son’s wiring.  Research on drugs and alcohol continues to show substantial, detrimental impact on the brain – a complex network of wiring and chemicals – even when used recreationally.  So, it seems like the computer analogy applies when a loved one is affected by chronic substance use and its various repercussions.

Within a few days of leaving his recovery program – early, against their recommendations and without a solid plan in place — my son reverted to his previous coping mechanisms and behavior patterns.  It’s now been about five weeks and what I’m observing is not very encouraging.  It’s downright sad.

When a loved one has gone haywire, it feels like it’s time to  is an attempt to do just that: to push the reset button, to reboot. However, the only buttons to which we have access are our own.  Hard as it is, the only reboot button that I can push is my own.

Midwestern Mama

 

 

Parents: Always Trust Your Gut

I call it my Mom Radar.  You might call it your gut or guidance from God.  Whatever it is, it’s that little voice that parents of young addicts must always listen to.  Over the past few days – from our Sunday session with our son and his counselor at treatment to arriving yesterday at the halfway house, I sensed something was amiss.  My husband sensed it too, all along, while I tried to maintain positive and see baby steps of progress.

My son called yesterday afternoon.  He sounded down and asked again when I’d have his new phone and new number for him, oh and could I please bring him his backpack too.  On the phone subject, he had gotten rid of his old SIM card, so getting a new one required me to go into the phone store and it was more convenient for me to do this later in the week.  (The reason for the new number and SIM card was so that old friends, dealers, users, etc. couldn’t reach him – it was to give him a fresh start.)  The backpack request really made me uneasy.  There was really no reason for it unless he was planning to bolt.  He’s done that before.  It’s his coping mechanism.

Either way, I said I’d get the phone and backpack to him over the weekend.

This morning, the phone rang.  It was the halfway house.  Bad news they said.  I knew what they would say next.  He’d left.  Evidently just slipped out after dinner last night and hadn’t come back.  Left his belongings.  They said he hadn’t really engaged in any conversations or participated in any of the group activities yesterday; he was really keeping to himself.  Pretty typical, actually.

From their perspective, this seemed like a thought out, well executed plan.  I believe it was too.

He can’t go back now — other than to get his things.  He would have to go back to treatment, start over.  That’s just how the rules and laws go.  Once a client leaves the halfway house, and probably uses drugs (relapse), they are not eligible for that level of care and must take the higher level care.

This all points to the deepness and seriousness of our son’s addiction.  We’ve never been in denial.  Never.  But we have been hopeful, and this time, he got further along the road to recovery than ever before.  (OK that’s my positivity coming through again.)

I am worried.  He does not have his meds with him.  The antidepressant should not be skipped or stopped cold turkey.  The naltrexone is ok to go off, however, it’s purpose is to block the effects of Herioin and opioids like Oxycontin, Vicoden, etc.  Without taking naltrexone, he can feel those effect.

Heroin has one of the highest risks of relapse.  Another scary statistic about heroin relapse is that when a person has gone without using (in my son’s case about 45 days now), their tolerance is lowered and so if they use again at the same level as before they will likely overdose.  Many initial Heroin relapses result in overdoses and often death.

OK, I’ve said it.

We want to find him.  We hope he is not suicidal.  We hope he is safe (relatively speaking).  We hope he will realize this wasn’t what he wanted to do.

I know he must be feeling low (or high – pun intended).  I know he is hurting.  I know he feels unsupported.  I am sorry he has these feelings – it’s not what a loving parent wants.

Just to be clear, let me reiterate:  Always trust your gut.

Midwestern Mama