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.

 

 

Serenity Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts           All Rights Reserved

What are you going to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

The Avocado Won, This Time

avocado-pit-eat-health-usesI’ll be taking on the world one handed this week. It’s not by choice rather by accident.

It’s a good reminder that you never know what the day will bring, and that is absolutely a lesson that my son’s addiction and recovery has taught us.

Saturday morning I was preparing an avocado and went to remove the pit, as I routinely do by piercing it with the tip of a steak knife and giving it a gentle twist. Oops, the knife slipped and lacerated the underside of my left thumb and nicked the tendon. My thumb is now loosely stitched and fully immobilized until I see the hand specialist on Tuesday to find out what’s next for healing.

That means I’ll be tweeting and blogging one handed, and I anticipate even more typos than usual:) Thank goodness I had already submitted my blog for I Have Will so that’s one less piece to pull together.

Enough about my hand. Let me refocus this on addiction and recovery. When we were trying to figure out what was going on with our son, each day was full of ups, downs, twists and turns. At first we couldn’t anticipate what was going to happen next. In time, we learned to anticipate “something,” and “nothing” ever surprised us.

We became adept at going with whatever came our way – we had to. And, this we did not do alone. We had each other, husband and wife. We had professionals who guided us individually and as a family. We had friends and neighbors who always inquired how it was going and offered to help in any way they could. We had family – two other kids who needed us – plus grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers and cousins, who rallied along with us. In short, we had a community to support “our young addict.”

We said the Serenity Prayer with renewed appreciation giving consideration to things we could and couldn’t change. It saved my sanity more than once and I still rely on its infinite wisdom to guide me.

We found blessings in “it could have been worse,” when each of my son’s steps and consequences challenged that notion. I am forever grateful that he is alive and has survived some of the worst-of-the-worst situations that a young person, let along a young addict, can face.

With hindsight, there is nothing we could have done to prevent our son from trying marijuana and progressing to opiates. We educated, communicated honestly, and supported him and more. We did “all the right things,” and still when he had the choice to use or not, he was curious to try. Although he did not set out to become an addict, his brain chemistry is such that it was not his choice; he was hooked from day one.

Just as we can’t go back and change the last seven years, I can’t go back and change Saturday morning and my run in with the avocado … however, I am confident that next time, the avocado will not win – there will be guacamole and my thumb will be intact.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved