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

 

 

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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

 

What a Difference Recovery Makes!

Life with #SoberSon is going pretty well these days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

The Daily Text

Thinking about you.

What’s your horoscope say?

We miss you.

You won’t believe the cute thing the dog did today.

You deserve to be happy and healthy.

During much of my son’s addiction journey, he was homeless or sofa surfing. It broke our hearts, and in many ways I know it broke his.

However, we saw him regularly and took every opportunity to encourage him to get the help he needed. At the time, he did not appreciate our message or efforts to intervene. In fact, it often created more friction but my mom sense compelled me to continue.

One of the things we could never bring ourselves to do was to stop paying for his cell phone. It was a lifeline we didn’t want to let go of. And, we never regretted it.

So I started sending him daily texts to let him know we cared. Sometimes these were that simple and direct. Sometimes I shared updated on the family letting him know that our life was moving forward (and hoping he’d be joining us).

Not all the texts were so serious. I would say silly things. Send part of a song lyric. Tell him about a funny billboard. Ask about his horoscope. Comment on the family dog. I just tried to keep it open so he could choose to reply or not.

Sometimes he wouldd reply. Other times he wouldn’t. Whenever I got a reply, I knew it was a good sign – he was alive – even if his message was brief or if it was irate or belligerent. When he didn’t reply, it usually meant his phone wasn’t charged, he had lost his phone or left it somewhere, or he was sleeping. It might be days before we would hear back from him and sometimes it would propel us to go looking  for him – oh, the horror.

Regardless, the daily texts were our lifeline, and his too.

We believed that when he was ready to stop using drugs, he would reach out.

We’re coming up on three years of my son’s recovery and I know that the daily texts were part of the foundation that helped him forward.

Currently, my teenage nephew is struggling with substance use and mental health issues. He’s not homeless, but he likely feels just as lonely and hopeless. I’ve started a daily-text routine with him and hope it will help him realize that he has a loving family ready to help him forward. So far, he’s only responded once. It’s a start.

We count our blessings that our son is thriving in his recovery and hope the same for my nephew. If you are in the same place with a loved one, know that keeping the lines of communication open can make a difference. At the very least, you will know that you have shared your love even if they are not able to reciprocate for the time being.

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts         All Rights  Reserved.

 

 

Resisting the Urge – Parenting a Young Person in Recovery

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

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

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

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

Jungle Gym

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

Our hopes met reality. Our hopes became belief.

Each day, the gift of recovery renews itself.

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

It’s been awhile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

 

#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

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

How Can Meditation Help Parents To Cope With Their Child’s Addiction?

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Today’s guest blogger is Marco Sterling, who has provided a comprehensive guide to meditation. When we are caught up in the turmoil of a loved one’s addiction, it’s often hard to embrace the simplicity and empowerment that meditation can bring; yet, meditation is the cornerstone of our own self care, serenity and recovery. Thank you, Marco, for sharing this invaluable information including a variety of links.

A seemingly endless cycle of internal ranting, worrying, and despair often accompanies the parents of addicts in their daily lives, compounding their difficulties, and jeopardizing both health and peace of mind. Restoring balance and peace of mind can be achieved by stepping back from the daily internal struggle of “what if…,” “how come she won’t…,” “why didn’t I…”. The cycle seems uncontrollable, the troubles seem to have no answers, and the questions seem to never cease.

However, the endless cycle of uncontrollable worrying, anxiety, and stress is, in fact, the only thing we have some control over. We can choose to stop the cycle, with the understanding that it is unhealthy – we may have no control over the troubles we are worrying about, but we can take control of our worrying. If hitting the ‘off’ button seems too tough, you can learn to hit the ‘mute’ button for 20 minutes of healthy silence.

In this article, several top scientific studies confirming meditation as a successful strategy for restoring peace of mind are explored. Mindfulness and visualization in meditation are also explored, inspirational tips are provided, and some great video resources are offered to give you a loving and relaxing break from worry, stress, and anxiety.

Article Overview:

  • Part 1: What is Meditation?
    • What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?
    • What are the Different Types of Meditation?
      • Breath Meditation
      • Concentrative/Visualization Meditation
      • Receptive/Mindful Meditation
      • Reflective Meditation
      • Generative Meditation
    • Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?
      • Beginner’s Breath Meditation
      • Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation
      • Easy Walking Meditation

 

Part 1: What is Meditation?

Both an ancient and popular modern practice, meditation is a means of increasing mental concentration and physical relaxation. Although often associated with Eastern and New Age religions, in fact, almost all religions share a strong respect and appreciation for meditating on holy Scriptures as a means of increasing peace and enlightenment. While religion is not a necessary component of meditation, your personal system of beliefs may easily be incorporated into your meditations.

What are the Benefits of Practicing Meditation?

Practicing meditation brings relief from worry and stress, promoting a calmer outlook on life. Stanford University neuroscientists report that eight weeks of mindfulness meditation reduces brain activity related to fear and anxiety. Harvard’s Sara Lazar further confirms that mindfulness meditation physically reduces the number of neurons in this same worry-triggering area of the brain.

According to the University of New Hampshire’s Office of Health Education, the benefits of meditation are many, including:

  • Decreased stress
  • Decreased depression
  • Decreased anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer cravings for alcohol and tobacco
  • Increased creativity
  • Increased spontaneity
  • Higher levels of energy
  • Increased exercise tolerance
  • Increased job satisfaction
  • Better concentration
  • Better relationships with others

What are The Different Types of Meditation?

The following meditations were written and produced by the University of New Hampshire for the Health Services project “Reflections: Meditative Practice for College Students“:

Breath Meditation — Focusing your mind on the rhythm of your breathing becomes a simple and natural meditation. Notice your breathing becoming deeper and slower as you settle into the peacefulness, your mind becoming calm and self-aware.

Concentrative/Visualization Meditation — Many people find it helpful to focus the mind by visualizing images or ideas. Focus on breathing to relax and then engage your imagination, for example, to promote healing energy flowing through your body. A specific image or sound (mantra) may be the focus during this meditation, further helping to quiet your mind. Mantras can be spiritual or other comforting sounds, words, or phrases, which you repeat softly and rhythmically, while you meditate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDLuip5Bb3o

Receptive/Mindful Meditation — During this form of meditation, your mind becomes attentive, or receptive, to sensations, smells, feelings, thoughts, images, and experiences without judging, reacting, or processing the experience. This helps train the mind to become calm and clear while learning to achieve a non-reactive state of mind.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaEeXsDEwEo

Reflective Meditation — This method of meditation is used for gaining deeper enlightenment by reflecting deeply upon an interesting question, compelling idea, fascinating characteristic, sacred scripture, classic quote, or another inspiring concept.

Generative Meditation — Focusing on a specific quality, such as love, forgiveness, gratitude, compassion, patience, etc., this form of meditation is used to consciously cultivate, or generate, that quality within you. Continuing into your daily walk of life, generative meditation encourages you to further nurture this quality while thinking, speaking, and acting, as though this quality is already fully alive in you.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM

Part 2: Where/How do I Meditate?

In the beginning, meditation may be more easily learned while lying down or sitting somewhere peaceful, quiet, and comfortable. There are no right or wrong ways to meditate, so be compassionate and patient with yourself while you discover your own way. Give yourself time to practice clearing your mind, learning how to relax, and discovering how to just “be”.

Beginner’s Breath Meditation

Learning to focus on your breathing will teach you the oldest and easiest form of meditation.

  1. Sit down somewhere peaceful and comfortable.
  2. Gently close your eyes, close your mouth, and breathe in through your nose.
  3. Breathe in deeply, filling your abdomen with air.
  4. Open your mouth slightly and breathe out peacefully, exhaling until you’ve emptied your lungs.
  5. Continue inhaling and exhaling this way, focusing on your breath. If counting your breaths helps you focus on them, this is fine. The idea is to use this focus to clear the clutter from your head, becoming mindful of only your breathing. Continue for two or three minutes in the beginning and work up to longer periods.

Learning Mindful Breathing With Visualization Meditation

A common mindful breathing meditation technique involves reciting a relaxing “script,” for example, “Breathing in, I relax. Breathing out, I smile.” Using visualization, or focusing on an object, can also be helpful during mindful breathing meditation. For example, look at the blue sky after sitting down comfortably, and breathe in, saying, “Breathing in, I see the blue sky.” Then, while breathing out, recite, “Breathing out, I smile at the blue sky.” Now your breathing becomes one with the blue sky, the source of your air as well as your mindfulness.

Continue mindful breathing meditation, visualizing yourself relaxing into the experience. Become mindful of your physical state of peace and inner calm.

Easy Walking Meditation

Walking meditation takes the concept of mindfulness with you while you walk. While being aware of every breath you are taking, add to that an awareness of every step. Now you are becoming one with the air you are breathing as well as the contact between you and the earth. Focus on the sensation of each foot as it connects with the ground. Keep your gaze forward and try not to let your attention wander, but return your focus always to your inhaling, exhaling, left foot, right foot, as you experience this peaceful, calming relationship with earth and sky.
(“Meditation” by Moyan Brenn, Flickr)

Learning to Appreciate Your Center

One of the greater benefits of meditation is learning to detach yourself from external forces over which you never had any control. Learning to focus your mind on what actually “is” will allow you to release your mind’s focus on what “is not.” The negative habit of focusing on, or worrying about, troubles you have no control over will become replaced with a new, positive habit of clearing the worries from your mind.

Your new and ever-deepening awareness of yourself and your surroundings can promote a sense of balance, a centeredness which becomes a new foundation from which you will develop new relationships. With regular practice, meditation will help you maintain your center when life’s situations try to throw you off-balance.

And, in those times when you find yourself pulled off-balance by overpowering events and situations, meditation will help return you home, to your quiet, calming peace of mind.

Author Bio Marco Sterling - guest blogger - meditation 2-17-16

I am a former mid-level advertising executive who had the unfortunate experience with drug and alcohol abuse. My experience is similar to others and in going through it I realized how precious life really is. My aim is to help as many people as possible who are going through the same struggle. I currently serve as the Chief Editor for www.PaloRecovery.com and I hope that you will visit and find value in the topics I write about.

 

 

 

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

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.

98.6 and Feeling Good

Final exam grades are starting to post, and Midwestern Mama’s son studied hard – especially for his college chemistry course.

Our son is smart. School was never a challenge for him. He could read something once and remember it. He could listen to the lesson the teacher was giving and remember it. And, his grades and test scores reflected this – until he was a junior in high school.

That’s when everything changed. His attitude, his behavior. Everything. And, it didn’t take long for us to learn that he was using drugs. From there, it all fell apart. He was lucky to graduate, but that’s another story.

We always hoped that he would one day return to school, but realized that he had a long way to go through addiction, treatment, relapse, treatment, and ultimately commitment to recovery.

That day arrived last year when he signed up for spring semester courses at the local community college. Although he was on academic probation from previous attempts at college, he appealed and registered, and throughout the semester, he worked his tail off to earn an A in English and a B in Differential Equations and Linear Algebra. He’d never worked or studied so hard in his life. Not only did he learn the subjects, he learned that he had discipline and tenacity to succeed.

Exhausted, he took the summer off from school. Again, we were hopeful he’d return for fall semester, and he did. This time, he signed up for a full load of courses, and continued to amaze us with his perseverance – everything from earning the money for tuition and books to putting forth significant study time.

It’s paid off. This week is the final week of fall semester and he’s already received an A in chemistry with a 98.6 percent on the final exam. Other projects and exams continue, but without hesitation, he opened up the online grading portal and shared his progress with us throughout the semester. (The sharing part is not only heartwarming, but a true sign of progress and recovery.)

He’s registered again for spring semester 2016 and after a few weeks of holiday break, he’ll be ready to hit the books again.

From a rough end of high school to a life-threatening start to college in 2011, #SoberSon is exhibiting the transformation of recovery and we couldn’t be more proud.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

Lost & Found – Reconnecting with Those Who have Helped our Family through Addiction

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Along our journey through addiction, many professionals have helped our son and our family. From time to time, I reach out to let them know what has happened next – often each professional was just a brief participant.

Last night I texted a private investigator whom we hired in summer 2011 when our son had run away from a wilderness treatment center just nine days into the program, to give him a positive update.

That summer, without a phone or wallet, our son left on foot to escape treatment. He was in denial of his addiction and was not at all ready to stop using drugs. We were devastated to receive the call from his counselor and very concerned about our son’s well-being and whereabouts.

After checking in with area shelters and filing a missing person’s report with the local sheriff’s department, we had fleeting hope of finding our son and getting him back to Minnesota. A day or so later, having heard no word, we hired a private investigator.

Fortunately, this caring, young man tracked our down our son within a day. He told our son how worried we were and how much we wanted to help him. They had dinner together that night and he let him sleep at his home before getting him on board a plane for Minnesota.

While there is more to this story as you may have read in many of the old posts on this site, it was a turning point in more than one way – many of which were even more devastating. I felt compelled to reach back out to the private investigator to let him know that #SoberSon is 14 months sober, living at home, taking college classes, working part time, attending counseling, and more.

Shortly after texting him with the update, I received the nicest note back. I imagine that often people never know what happened next and must wonder if things eventually turned out all right.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts                            All Rights Reserved.

Autumn Blessings & Updates

This year's fall routine is most welcome as #SoberSon continues on the recovery path and Midwestern Mama pursues a series of parent-awareness events.
This year’s fall routine is most welcome as #SoberSon continues on the recovery path and Midwestern Mama pursues a series of parent-awareness events.

Positive routines are such a blessing. Right now, we are in such a great place with our #SoberSon. He’s taking college classes (13 credits), working part time, attending counseling sessions as part of his medication-assisted therapy, seeing a psychologist, living at home, taking part in family activities and loving our family dog.

His outlook is positive and he’s mastering coping skills that help him with stress management, depression, anxiety and more. Each day, we see more and more of the happy, healthy kid we love. Each day, we become more and more confident in the future, and more importantly, he feels confident as well.

After such a long, devastating haul through addiction, this is a welcome routine. Each day, I pause to think about what a blessing it is to have weathered his addiction and to witness his recovery.

As such, it’s also a time for me to reflect on the journey and plot out the future for Our Young Addicts. One of the exciting things underway is a school-district wide series of events for parents in my local community.

A group of parents has met with our local principal and is organizing an upcoming parent-awareness and -education night. We are pleased about the school district’s support and envision the possibility of this being replicated in districts across the state of Minnesota and beyond.

Likewise, we are organizing a spring summit on addiction and young adults. It will be a lot of work to put together, but we have some willing partners and know the outcome will be a conversation that builds awareness, decreases stigma, and creates solutions. This, too, I believe has the potential to replicate beyond Minnesota.

Stay tuned as each of these develops. I welcome your ideas, support and participation.

Midwestern Mama

Registered & Ready – It’s Almost Time to go Back to School

True to his word, Midwestern Mama’s #SoberSon will return to community college this fall, and he’s doing it on his own. Another example of recovery in progress!

Back to the lecture hall for fall classes at community college.
Back to the lecture hall for fall classes at community college.

Fall classes at my son’s community college don’t start until the end of August, but he’s already registered and has earned enough money for tuition and books. This is significant. It’s nothing short of an amazing transformation from addiction to recovery.

Just think, a year ago he had started another treatment program and it really felt different – better – this time. That alone was encouraging for us and empowering for him. We had hope, but in the past the new-car smell would wear off and we’d be left with another broken-down clunker.

As he went through the treatment program and began living in recovery, he started talking about going back to college part time. By December, he had completed the necessary steps including an appeal to override previous academic suspension from his addiction days.

His spring classes were tough, but he dug in and committed to attending and studying – receiving an A in English Composition and a B in Differential Equations and Linear Algebra.

While building his confidence, it also stressed and exhausted him to the point that he decided not to take summer classes.

It's takes hard work to get back in the swing of doing home work and studying for college classes.
It’s takes hard work to get back in the swing of doing home work and studying for college classes.

Amid a more relaxed schedule this summer and a lot of video games, we’ve been hopeful that he would return to community college in the fall. However, we know not to push or hover because that stresses him.

True to his word, however – and this is a new behavior that we are coming to appreciate more and more each day – he just registered for fall classes AND informed us that he’s earned enough from his part-time job to pay tuition and buy books. He’s moving from eight credits up to 12 credits, a nice manageable load, and I’m looking forward to the routine of having him in class and doing homework, but not until we enjoy another month of summer!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

“Let’s just leave it at that.”

This past weekend marked one year of sobriety and recovery for Midwestern Mama’s son. They celebrated the occasion with Saturday morning breakfast at a local diner. No hoopla, but plenty of pride and a healthy side of confidence.

Three hundred and sixty seven days ago, my son stopped using opiates and other drugs. It has been his longest period of sobriety and his most sincere. Unlike past encounters with treatment and recovery, the past year has filled me with great confidence about this time is indeed different.

It makes me want to do my Mom dance! (Only I know how much that embarrasses my kids.) Without a doubt, I want to shower him with accolades. But he’s not a “loud and proud” kind of person. Instead, he’s quieter and more introspective these days. In many ways, his struggles with anxiety, depression and addiction transformed him from extroverted to introverted, and I have to recognize and respect that.

He is proud of himself and he knows the family is, too. He has worked hard this past year and is continuing to do the hard work to rebuild his life and transition to self sufficiency in due time. He is taking it slower, not rushing things – in the past, not approaching it this way triggered a terrible relapse that set him back even further than ever before.

The menu at our breakfast diner offered many enticing items and he was eager to sample several. Over Huevos Rancheros, French toast, sausage links and chocolate milk, I told him I wouldn’t make a big deal out of the occasion … but I did want to commemorate it. He looked me in the eye and said, “Let’s just leave it at that.”

I smiled and so did he.

Celebrating One Year of Sobriety for Midwestern Mama's Son!
Celebrating One Year of Sobriety for Midwestern Mama’s Son!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

The Road to Recovery – Driving Rules for the Road

During a recent road trip this summer, Midwestern Mama gave some thought to “rules for the road,” as her son drives toward recovery.Now, Tomorrow, Yesterday

In Minnesota, we joke that we only have two seasons: winter and road construction. Our winters are notably terrible – often lasting from November (sometimes even earlier) until (at least) May, and the driving is perilous. Our summers are exceptionally beautiful – provided you can get where you’re going in spite of single lanes, out-of-the-way detours and other nuisances as road construction crews spend the entire season to repair potholes, repaint lines and create roundabouts purported to save lives.

It’s not as simple or as dreadful as it sounds. Since there’s not much anyone can do about weather or road construction for that matter, we can complain or we can joke. Even better, we can accept it and ride it out along with our fellow drivers.

My 20-something son is 11 months into sobriety and recovery, and as I’ve come to realize it has some parallels to winter and road construction – neither of which we can control nor can we change.

He’s behind the wheel navigating the icy spots, avoiding the potholes, taking a few detours, and getting to his destination – not necessarily when he wants to arrive, but when the roadway deems it the right time.

Here are some of my realizations about recovery:

Maps are great but not always reliable.

Whether a tried-and-true printed atlas or a digital GPS system with all the bells and whistles, maps are just that – a map. Nothing about a map guarantees that you’ll get from point A to point B; a map is a guide and it’s up to you to follow it or adapt it as you see fit.. As a driver, you may want to consult several maps and then be ready and willing to make adjustments as road and weather conditions present. There is almost always more than one way to get to your destination and as much as the straight and narrow might seem like the best route, it may not be the route you find yourself on.

Keep your eyes on the road.

One of the cool things about a road trip is the chance to see the world. Some of it is quite beautiful, but not all of it. Some of it can be quite distracting and if your eyes wander, you may risk driving off the road. When you’re in recovery, it’s important to concentrate; one small lane change without signaling can be detrimental.

Detours do happen.

Early in my son’s addiction journey, he did try a few treatment programs. One he arrived at and ran away from nine days later. He was using again almost immediately, and whatever respite he had from using did not drive an interest in sobriety. Midway through a second program, this time an out-patient one, he started using. His interest in sobriety was still a long ways off. A few years later during a successful in-patient stint followed by a halfway house, his sobriety lasted a bit longer and he finally had a bead on the horizon. He wanted to change, but didn’t want to follow the rules of the road … thus, he relapsed and this time its effect was almost immediate – he was once again homeless, jobless and penniless.

Don’t forget to refuel.

Safe driving takes energy and concentration. Just as you need to keep an eye on the fuel gauge and to use the right type of gasoline for your car, it’s imperative that you pay attention to your body’s and mind’s dashboard. Are you eating and resting well? Are you feeding your soul? Are you exploring new ideas?

Stop when you get tired.

Experts say that tired driving is, in fact, impaired driving – as potentially dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Odd as this may sound, I think too much focus on recovery, will wear you out; it’s too intense to take on recovery 24/7/365. Too many meetings, too many counseling appointments, too many forced interactions – it can zap your energy and your ability to see straight. Instead, to help all the positive content sink in, you need to take a rest and do a few other things.

Some of the things my son likes to do include taking the dog for a walk, playing Frisbee golf, going to a movie, visiting his grandma. He doesn’t do these things naturally – he’s more inclined to play hours and hours of video games – so my mom instinct is to remind and encourage him to do something else. I’m hoping he’ll start rollerblading again this summer – something he’s always enjoyed; we got him a new pair about a month ago when he successfully completed a semester of college.

Have a destination in mind.

When my kids were little, we would often take a family drive on Sunday afternoon. My husband always called it, “seeing where the car takes us,” and the kids loved the surprise element. Sometimes we would end up in a small town and find a fun place for burgers and malts. Other times, we might end up on a nature walk or at the beach (after all, Minnesota is the Land of 10,000 Lakes).

Rather than a hard and fast geographic destination, the destination we had in mind was “family time,” and we always knew when we arrived. I think this is a key distinction for recovery. Having too specific a vision of where you want to head is the opposite of recovery, which is a time of healing and discovery. You’ll know when you’re on the right road, and if you detour, you trust that you’ll get back headed where you need to go.

Right now, I’d say my son has a loose destination in mind (sobriety, recovery and independence). He has a map (but he’s not clutching it too tightly and is open to the road-trip approach). He detours from time to time (fortunately, not as a relapse these past 11 months), and then he gets right back on the road. The road behind has my son’s destination.

He’ll know it when he gets there and we will, too. For now, he’s driving the car and his eyes are on the road.

Happy trails!

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved