Smart, Safe, Sober … and Sunscreen

We’ve heard it before. Substance Use Disorder runs in families. For our family this was particularly concerning as our youngest headed to college last year.

While I didn’t have reason to believe it was going to be a problem, his sister’s and brother’s college experiences weighed on my mind. I kept reminding myself that our youngest kid had walked a different path in high school, that he was well aware of the danger and consequences of substance use, that he was a different person and that he would walk his own path.

Still, I was relieved when he called home after the first weekend on campus. Do I think that there wasn’t any alcohol? marijuana? other substances? I’m sure there was. It’s college and these are prevalent on campus, but it didn’t seem to be a focus for our son.

He made his choices and these worked out for him. And following a summer of being back home, I have no suspicions of use. My mom radar is not bleeping. What a relief!

However, I’m super sensitive to drug and alcohol use among young people, so when we dropped him off for sophomore year – on Thursday, with four days and nights until classes would start, well, a mom’s mind starts to wonder. Heck, that’s a lot of down time before the commitment of classes.

Would there be parties over the long weekend? Yes. In fact, they were planning a pool party at one of the off-campus apartments. Would he attend? Yes. Would there be alcohol? Maybe. Drugs? I don’t think so. And if there are, I don’t think it’s a choice he’d even consider.

After meeting some of his friends, I have a positive sense about this group. So, after saying our good byes, I said my usual, “Remember the three S’s (smart, safe, sober) and one more – please wear sunscreen.”

The lesson here is that just because one sibling has a Substance Use Disorder doesn’t mean that all siblings will. It does mean that we talk about it and are mindful of the college culture.

©2019 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.

Sober Houses: Finding the Right Balance between Freedom and Supervision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

 

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

©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

5 Reasons This Young Person Decided to Stop Drinking Completely

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 The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb

Fall seven times, stand up eight.” – Japanese proverb

Having just written that title, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t have called this article “5 Reasons I HAD To Stop Drinking Completely” instead. Maybe that would be more accurate considering the fact that my life at that point simply wasn’t worth living; not to me anyway. However, when it all comes down to it, it was my decision, whatever the reasoning.  I was 14 years old when I first tasted alcohol. I was sitting in the local park with some guys from school, they were drinking either whatever one of them had stolen from their parents’ drinks cabinet or just simply stole from a store. Someone passed me a bottle of bourbon and they rest, as they say, is history.

I was kind of average at school – medium popularity, medium looks, medium grades, medium everything. After that night, they guys I sat with treated me differently – in class, on the basketball court, outside of school. It was like I had been accepted into some secret fraternal gang only the popular kids were part of. It made me feel cool to be like them. It sounds so sad now, but it’s how I felt. It wasn’t long before I was the one stealing alcohol from my parents or the local store.

That was 14 years ago. I’m 28 now and I have been sober for just over 4 years. Basically, I flunked school, ended up in a dead-end job (which I lost pretty quickly) and got married at 18. We were together less time than I have now been sober. My drinking became so out of control so quickly that nobody knew what to do with me. More so, I didn’t know what to do with me. I was in an inescapable hell. I thought that for years and years. But I was wrong. This article isn’t about my recovery, how I ended up in rehab or what it’s like living my life as a sober. It’s why I decided (or had) to stop drinking completely. It all boiled down to the following 5 reasons, which I’d like to share:

#1. Family

From the age of about 16, my family (my parents and my 2 sisters) started to distance themselves from me. I can see that now. Failure at school, constant arguments about where I was going, where I was getting my money from, and the smell of booze at the dinner table. A year later, having had enough and maybe the pressure of self-guilt forced my Dad to kick me out of the house. I lived in the garden for a while, believe it or not, in a tree house he had built for us years before. Soon after, I was crashing in the shabby apartments of other drunks. I didn’t see my family for years. We talk now that I’m sober but I can hear the strain in their voices. They’ve never invited me to stay over, but I do visit during the day sometimes. And we talk.

#2. Friends

Did those guys back in the park stay my friends? Nope, of course not. I was disowned by them just like I was eventually disowned by my family. Any other friends I had soon went the same way. A drunk with no-one to talk at but himself is an even sadder drunk. My inescapable hell.

#3. Relationships

Like I said before, in all the craziness with my obvious alcohol addiction, I got married. What was she thinking? In all the years of my drinking, I never could keep a relationship. Second dates were rarer than free drinks at my local bar… Still, we met, I thought I was in love and we tied the knot. Her parents weren’t impressed and mine didn’t even come to the wedding. My verbal abuse, my moods, my sullenness, and my constant drinking saw her walk out the door about a year and a half later; she tried her best to help me, she was patient and helpful, but I was in no place to be helped.

#4. Health

Alcohol will kill you in time. Its accompanying medical issues will see you in your grave. In all honesty, even though I felt like it many times, I didn’t want to die. I just wanted to wake up different each day but I never did. Withdrawal in rehab was just about bearable – in fact, it was nothing I hadn’t done before as a drunk. Vomiting, shaking, screaming, crying.

#5. Sadness

I have included this because this was simply how I felt every single day of my drinking years. Terrible, terrible sadness. Some may call it self-pity or even depression, but for me it was just plain sadness, all part of my inescapable hell.

Young & Sober

So, that’s why. I have written stuff like this before – in my diaries, my journals, and other notebooks. Writing is part of my new, sober life and my ongoing recovery. Writing I can control and is definitely at the opposite end of the spectrum to my alcohol addiction. Just over 4 years sober and so many things that happened before have come more into my perspective and my understanding. I’m 28 but I often feel like I’ve lived the life of someone far older. So these were (and still are) the 5 reasons I decided to stop drinking completely: family, friends, relationships, health and sadness. If you have decided to quit your drinking for good, what was your main motivation for doing so? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

From one of my favorite songs – “Go easy, step lightly, stay free.”

About Our Guest Blogger:

carl-t-guest-bloggerI’m Carl Towns, a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; I am also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online.

 

 

 

 

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

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

#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

Spring Break, Part Two: New York State of Mind

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Wishing you the best for a wonderful spring break,

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Sober Son is Still Climbing. Me, too!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

 

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

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

#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!

Guest Blog: Substance For You offers 3 Safety Precautions in Early Recovery

PrintThis week’s guest blogger has a familiar online presence: Substance For You. A substance user as a young adult, he offers personal experience, resources and hopes for the #OYACommunity. Today he writes about steps families can take to ensure success in early recovery.

Every parent wants to know two things when they have a child or loved one just getting clean for the first time. They want to know, “What could I have done different?” and the next most asked question is “Where do I go next to help prevent this from happening again?” It is important to know the issues surrounding key aspects of early recovery as you may have someone you love just now getting clean for the first time and not know where to go.

Below is a list of safety precautions one may implement in early recovery for their loved one to help guide the situations surrounding going back to addiction or relapsing. None of us want that to happen to someone we love, but we might be stuck in this very situation and not know where to go. With this comprehensive list of precautions to take in early recovery you can now easily set guidelines, rules, and stipulations that both the loved one and lover(s) can be held accountable for in guiding them to a new found wonderful path of recovery. With this list it will make it easier to understand the dangers surrounding things like money, responsibilities, and making relapse completely inaccessible to the addict, to the very best of your ability.

How do I know these tips will work? Well, this is almost word for word the conversation that my parents and I had when I first decided to come home from rehab after a year long stint with heroin and a previous year long stint with opiate pills like Vicodin and Oxycontin along with benzodiazapem and muscle relaxant abuse. Not to mention I was a chronic alcoholic I had always been spending my money illegally in all of these aspects, considering I got clean by the time I was twenty years of age.

This list is one of the key factors into how I kept my triggers and opportunities extremely low for relapse. With this list of precautions to take in early recovery I could guide myself in reteaching myself the rights and wrongs, the social contract we all live and abide by, and the social norms that were considered to be good instead of my deviant life I was living. This was a pivotal turning point in my recovery and I have one thing to say to the people that implanted it.

 “Thank you mom and dad for NOT being easy on me. Thank you for doing the right thing no matter the lines we had to cross to get there. Without this and your love I don’t know where I’d be. I’m forever grateful and humbled by your poise to implant these tools into my life, and I know now that I couldn’t have done it without you, my support system. Mom: I love you for your emotion and compassion that made me realize it’s time to listen and make a change. Dad: I love you for always butting heads with me but being able to control the impulses yourself, God knows I had enough of them. You were both strong and held your ground. You didn’t enable. You are what guided my recovery, and these tools work if ever you needed affirmation to that! Thank you! I love you momma and pops!”

1. Give Access to Your Money to Someone Trusted- In the first thirty or ninety days or even my first six months I always had a rule: “No Cash.” This meant that I wouldn’t carry any cash on me or have any credit or debit cards that could act as cash for me. If I was going somewhere I knew I would take the specific amounted needed to get the job done, say filling up the gas tank. The reason being for all of this precaution was my urge to splurge. I always wanted to find some new fixation to spend my money on, and it always ended up being something so negative or not appropriate for a clean and healthy lifestyle. If my urge to splurge wasn’t fixated on something negative that you could buy at any convenient shop, I might go to the extreme. If there was nothing to satisfy my urge to splurge with any legal means—although still feeding my reward center in my brain—I would tell myself: “Well you have the money, it’s here and it’s now or never.” My thinking mind would always say to itself that if you have the money and it’s not gone when you get home, and you really don’t want what you intended, why not get some dope? This was a constant battle because in early recovery I always wanted dope more than I wanted something of material possession from say a “JC Penny” or gas from a “Speedway.” This is just something my brain was so accustomed to spending my own money on. It is safer to be on no money and have the urge not there at all than it is to have “Extra spending cash.” Then, if I didn’t come home with all the money spent that was given to me my parents would ask, “Where did the money really go? Show me proof?” And this brings me to my next point: “Receipts.”

2. Parents: Require Receipts from Your Children in Early Recovery- In my early recovery, I know I said only take what you know you will spend. So, what if you do spend all of the money you are given, but you still spend it on dope? How are you held accountable? Well here is how it worked in my family. My parents would give me a certain amount of money—say $20 for gas—and would write down the amount in a “little black book” they kept handy. Then when I got home from getting the gas I would always be required to immediately hand my father the receipt that said $20 on it, and sometimes check my pockets and gas tank (not always for the second two but you can). If the receipt did not say $20 on it and it said $16.84, I would be required to produce $3.16 to them, write it down for reference, and the reason there was change. I know this seems tedious, but it most certainly worked. For starters there was no fooling anyone. Secondly keeping me accountable in my daily actions showed me the way the world really worked, and it wasn’t the way I thought it did when living in my addiction. Everyone is held accountable for his or her actions, good or bad. And thirdly, if I broke the rules and couldn’t produce a receipt, whether it was accidental or not, there were always consequences that were written out in an agreement signed by my parents and me. As my dad always said, “You sign this, it is legally binding. You break my rules then you break the law. You do dope, you won’t have me to answer to this time.” This didn’t just keep me accountable with my parents for my actions, but it put things into perspective if I was to get dope with the money and that is, I’d be going to jail for a felony case. Why would my own parent do this? “Well, son I do this because this is my house and if anyone brings felony drugs and paraphernalia into my house who do you think they will be taking to prison? Me or you? The house owner or tenant?” Now you understand what this written contract does, it doesn’t only protect me from screwing up, it protects my family if I was to actually go and screw up. I would never purposefully hurt my family, but addiction can play crazy tricks on your mind. So for the safety of the household, my mom, dad, and little brother I signed the contract willingly and was on my way to the next part of acceptance.

3. Keep a contract/written rules signed by both parties of actions versus consequences- This is the ultimate ending to parts one and two. With keeping this you know that the money that is being trusted by someone else is being respected. Then, you also know the money they do give you to do responsible things with is being spent within your and their—well thought out—boundaries. Without having an actions versus consequence list, guideline, or rulebook there would be no reason to abide by these rules and this would increase the chance of relapse in early recovery ten fold. We as the addicts have not been able to keep good inventory of ourselves in our addiction and our behavior in early recovery isn’t going to be too much changed to where we would know the differences of our actions. So in consequence of this we trust someone like a parent or mentor with our funds and give them a peace of mind and our own habits safety to their enforced contract. Parents/mentors you must be willing to enforce this contract, and leave enabling to the drugs themselves. Playing into the disease will do no one any good so make sure when you both sign this you are both ready for the consequences. Without keeping that little black book you may lose track and get confused and then make assumptions that could cause the addict to use just because you miscalculated totals, also. So when doing this be tedious and be careful, as it is well deserved and earned at this point once both parties are wanting to help to better not just one person but each other. Be cautious, be safe, but don’t forget it is the love that binds us together in all of these. We don’t do it because we have to; we do it because we don’t want to see the other fail. Simply, we do it because we love them! It’s not a contract of “What ifs” and “Well he/she said.” It’s a contract bonded by love and care for the betterment of each other in early recovery, positive lifestyle living, and beating addictions.

About the Author:

sfy bannerrrr

The owner of www.SubstanceForYou.com wrote and published this post. Substance For You is lifestyle brand providing hope for addictions and recoveries. We share personal stories, scientific and philosophical debates, and stories for betterment encouraging a positive and sober lifestyle. It is a place for someone who has either found recovery or is either looking for recovery and has an array of subjects covered with nearly 200 articles. Substance For You also offers 20+ sobriety and addiction recovery clothing and apparel items in their widely known sobriety shop on the website, that is meant to inspire and create social change in this world that proves, recovery is truly possible. We hope to provide a friendly reminder to anyone who is out there that we are there for them in any part of their journey and encourage sharing on our site with submissions going directly to the owner at SubstanceForYou@gmail.com

We are growing fast on Twitter (@SubstanceForyou) with 21,000 followers, and expanding fast on Facebook.com/SubstanceForYou with 3,000+ followers, and have 8,000+ followers on our Instagram.com/SubstanceForYouIG . Please join us in our movement as the owner will be nearing his 5 years clean of his demons (Alcohol and Heroin/Opiates) on December 25th, yes Christmas! On the blog we are expanding the series The Substance For You Saga into a 20 part series (Yes the size of an addiction recovery book!). Come find out what we are all about and what the owner and www.SubstanceForYou.com stands for! Remember it is possible as long as you stay clean and do the right thing. You can do it! I believe in you!

“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

Wrapping Up 30 Days of Gratitude

Midwestern Mama counts her blessings this Thanksgiving season with “30 Days of Gratitude.” Among her most grateful reflections? Relationships, Community, Family, Friends, and her son’s Sobriety & Recovery. Thank you for joining us in a celebration of #Gratitude2014

Thank you for reading along as I gave great consideration to all that is good, all that I am grateful for this season. What I truly realized it that I am grateful for far more than one thing each day, far more than 30 things in one month. I am blessed to have multitudes of things for which I am eternally grateful. The more I thought about things, the more I realized I could put on the gratitude list.

In sharing some of these thoughts with my husband, he shared a wonderful realization that he’d recently come to: He shared that since our son’s commitment to recovery, he is beginning to think about the future and is no longer dwelling so much in the past.

I, too, find myself better able to look forward. For so many days, months, years, it has been all we could do to just focus on the here and now, taking things one day at a time (sometimes even one minute at a time). We would replay the past. We would long for the good ‘ol days.

Now, we are excited to see what’s next for our son. And, our son is excited, too. He’s working part time with hopes of a promotion and perhaps finding an even better job. He’s registering for spring-semester courses at a local college. He’s appealing academic suspension by writing an honest and sincere account of his young-adult life and showing that he’s ready to be a drug-free, committed student. He’s turning his life around, and we are so happy for him.

Here is a quick recap of Days 21 – 30 of #Gratitude2014.

Day 21: I am grateful for information sharing and gathering. Smarter is better, when it comes to addiction.

Day 22: I am grateful for truth even when it’s difficult.

Day 23: I am grateful.

Day 24: I am grateful my son is alive in spite of so many past situations that could have killed him.

Day 25: I am grateful for how far my son and our family have come since last year – it was getting bleak; now it’s full of hope.

Day 26: I am grateful that family and friends will gather in our home to celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow.

Day 27: I am grateful my son is here to help me make the cornbread stuffing for our Thanksgiving meal!

Day 28: I am grateful for leftovers. Today, I am making turkey soup to warm the soul.

Day 29: I am grateful for the upcoming holiday season

Day 30: I am grateful all year round – Thanksgiving is more than a day, more than a month. It is a way of life.

All the best,

Midwestern Mama

The Dog Days … of Recovery

Midwestern Mama is pleased to share an update on her son’s recovery in what she likens to the “dog days.” Find out why and let us know if you can relate!

He’s sober. He’s still sober. Oh, how pleased I am to share that!

Beyond sobriety, I am even more pleased to share that my 22-year-old son is taking a daily dose of Suboxone and faithfully is attending a high-intensity out-patient (HIOP) program – which meets for three hours, three days a week. He even sees a counselor for a one-on-one hour once a week, although the counselor has been out of town the last three weeks … but I digress.

Since mid-July to present, my son, our family dog and I have made trips to the clinic each morning. We head out around 8 a.m. on Monday through Thursday, and at 7:15 on Fridays so he can see his counselor before group, and on Saturday, we get there before the clinic closes at 11 a.m. On Monday, Thursday and Saturday, the dog and I wait in the parking lot five to 30 minutes while we wait for him to dose. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, his group meets until noon, so the dog and I go about our business of errands, work or meetings.

This routine will continue until the middle of October, when he graduates from HIOP and at which time he may be eligible for take-home Suboxone a week at a time and then up to 30 days at a time. Currently, since the clinic is closed on Sundays, all clients take home their Sunday dose on Saturday, in a lock box.

It’s been our routine. A good routine. A routine we hoped, dreamed about and prayed for. A routine for which we are grateful. A routine that we don’t take for granted. Yet a routine that is routine, that is at times mundane, and at times harder than it is easy.

Early on in my son’s addiction, I was very much like my cohort Mid Atlantic Mom in thinking that drug treatment equaled success, equaled putting addiction behind us. I quickly learned through research, networking, reading, counseling, Al-anon, and more, that this might not in fact be the outcome. At least not the immediate outcome.

The underlying situation. The one that existed before the drug use. The one “we didn’t cause, can’t change, can’t control and can cure,” exists whether our young addicts are using, are sober or are recovering.

Without the substance, the reality of their mindset or mental illness is immediately front and center. It’s no longer masked. It exists and it is painful without the relief of substance. It remains to be diagnosed and treated. It is. It is. It is. It is there.

Some days, my son will share. Other days, he is silent but seemingly content. And still, other days, he is irritated, agitated, moody and resistant. We don’t always know how he will feel, how he will be. It often feels it’s all about him. In some ways, it is. Yet, the family must continue on, and for the first time in several years, I think he understands and respects this even if he remains sensitive to it, perhaps even hyper sensitive to it since he’s dealing with it sans chemicals.

It’s almost like the wound is far more open and raw than ever before.

The difference this time – now on his third or fourth experience with treatment and recovery – is that he wants to change and that we are more open and patient about small evidences of change. However, he wants it to go quickly and on his terms. I dare say, we do to.

Through all of this, and I come back to the “dog days” headline, our family dog has been as influential as anything in our son’s recovery progress. I’ll go it one more and say that our family dog has been the motivation and encouragement for him.

Every day, since having our son return home, he has taken great interest and pleasure in our young dog. They take walks together. They take naps together. The more they do together, the more they have bonded, and the more our dog has grown from a frisky puppy into a well mannered adolescent dog.

Our dog has responded exceptionally well to consistent, caring training, not to mention the positive rewards of pats and “good boy.” Our dog, has increased his listening and willingness – even in the face of dog training challenges: distance, duration and distraction — because our son has exhibited kind-hearted, positive discipline. Our dog has learned patience as he awaits clarity and permission. Our son has learned that setting and enforcing expectations works.

Through these “dog days” of recovery, we are all learning albeit at different paces, with differing expectations and with varied perceptions of progress.

Midwestern Mama

20 questions, 0 answers.

Midwestern Mama ponders the many questions she’s asked over the years about addiction and the many more she’d like to ask. The biggest question remains: When will her son embrace sobriety and recovery?

One of the first questions we asked was, “What is going on?” We were observing behaviors and attitudes that were different, out of character for our son. It prompted us to pause and ask him, to ask the doctor, his teachers, coaches, friends and family members.

The more we watched, wondered and asked, the more we started to ask the next couple of questions: “Could it be related to mental health?” and “Could he be using drugs?” Again, we didn’t get a lot of answers – from him or from others who cared and were concerned.

From my perspective, if you’re concerned about your child, don’t hesitate to ask questions and to seek answers. Just like the president of the United States of America or the CEO of a company, parents need to ask their “cabinet” of advisers for input and insight. We can’t possibly know everything there is to know, especially when it comes to things we’re often unfamiliar with such as mental health and substance use.

Finally, our answers began to cam from observations – not only the behaviors but from bits and pieces of evidence, of drugs and paraphernalia. Often these weren’t outright pieces of evidence but by Googling images and scouring the internet, we would learn that paperclips, hollow pens, tin foil, baggies and other seemingly common items had drug connections.

That would lead us to ask our son questions: “What is this?” and “Are you using drugs?” Of course, his answers, if he’d answer at all, were explanations and excuses. Again, we’d have to piece together little bits of information to get a small sense of what was going on.

The questions continued, but the answers didn’t to any great extent. From there, we started asking questions of ourselves: “How can we help him?” and “What can we do?” Through family counseling, therapy sessions, Al-anon, and lots of reading, we learned some answers – ones that were clinical, ones that were evidence-based and many that were centered on the classic mantra of “You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. You can’t cure it.” These helped us better understand our role, but the answers still don’t fully satisfy even if we understand these rationally and emotionally.

For a while, we stopped asking questions. We accepted. We let go. We detached. Except that we still witnessed, experienced and observed the devastation happening in our son’s life. While we had greater understanding and knowledge, we realized we still had questions.

When my son contacts us or comes home, my natural tendency is to start asking him questions. I don’t mean to interrogate him per se, but sometimes the power of my curiosity and concern is overwhelming and my need to know feels so urgent. I’m working hard to know when and what to ask.

There’s a psychology technique called Motivational Interviewing. It’s quite brilliant because it leads a person through a process of questions and answers in a way that allows the person to come to positive conclusions. Admittedly, I’m much better at using this technique in a role-playing scenario instead of in real life with my son.

After several weeks of asking him when he was going to reschedule a dental appointment to get three cavities filled, I changed the question to what’s holding him back from doing so and what if anything I could do to help him. That question wasn’t met with much appreciation either. In fact, he snapped at me quite nastily.

At first, I reeled from his irritable response, and then it came to me that when mental health and addiction own the minds of our loved ones, there are no good questions … and that is why there are no good answers.

Regardless of what question I ask or how I ask it, I realize that what I’m really asking is when is he going to embrace sobriety and recovery. He doesn’t know the answer and my asking him isn’t going to yield an answer that either of us likes nor one that is the least bit helpful. Never the less, it’s still the question that is on my mind, the one that I cling to with hope and one that is rooted in love.

Midwestern Mama

A Second Chance for Midwestern Mama’s Son

Addicts of all ages deserve a better, more fulfilling life.  I strongly believe that no one wakes up and decides he wants to be an addict.  If anything, it just happens.  Sure, it’s the results or consequence of choices, but those likely weren’t the original intentions.

From a parent’s perspective, I think it’s understandable – even reasonable – to ask, “What were you thinking?”  Frankly, the addict wasn’t thinking, wasn’t even capable of thinking.  Addiction got the better of them. 

Yet, as a parent, I still wonder why my young addict says and does the things he says and does.  More over, I grapple with why the words and actions rarely match up.  And then I remember that it’s part addiction, part mental illness (in my son’s case), partly a lack of perspective (as Mid Atlantic Mom wrote about), and partly age, partly the chemicals (substance and brain).  It’s many, many parts that add up all funky.

I can rationalize this.  I can understand it on a text book level.  I can even relate to it from an experiential perspective – after all, we’ve been witness to this for quite a few years.

Recognizing all this, I am again wondering what will happen next.  Nothing will surprise me, good or bad.  That’s just the reality of being the parent of a young addict.  However, nothing will stop me from hoping and praying that this is the day that he makes another small commitment to sobriety and recovery, and that in time his steps will be bigger and more confident.

About two hours ago, my son received a second chance at continuing his recovery program in a new halfway house, the one he originally said he preferred.  A bed became available.  Funding became available.  But we had to reach him and get a “yes” by 2 p.m.  By the grace of God, we did reach him and he did say, “yes.”

We were willing and ready to give him a ride right then and there.  He declined a ride from us.  He says his friends (users themselves) will give him a ride there and ensure he arrives by 4 p.m. today.  If not, the halfway house will have to give the bed and recovery opportunity to someone else … who really wants it.  

The halfway house and the funder have done their parts, nothing short of a small miracle.  Our son says, “yes.”  That’s a small miracle, too.  What will be a true miracle is if he actually shows up, on time and works the program.  You know what they say:  the program works when you work the program.  Words are one thing, but actions are what it’s all about when it comes to sobriety and recovery.

I am grateful that he has another opportunity.  (Since becoming an addict, this kid has had opportunity after opportunity.  He seems to attract them.  He also tends to waste them.)  

Today, right now, I am praying for all of you and the individual places you are on your journey.  You may be an addict.  You may be a parent, a teacher, clergy, family member, neighbor.  Whoever you are, I pray for you and am so glad you have joined Mid Atlantic Mom and me as part of our community of caring people who are concerned about the young addicts in our lives.

Will he show up at the new halfway house in the next 45 minutes?  As soon as I know, I will share with you.

Journey on ….

Midwestern Mama

 

Tradition and Transition – Christmas in Rehab

Traditions are the mainstay of holidays.  We all look forward to certain activities, foods, friends and family.  We hold to these and honor the way we’ve always done things but sometimes changes come along.  Like some many things in life, we can view change as challenge or opportunity.

This year, our Christmas celebration will be different and although that brings nostalgia and a certain discomfort with the prospect of changing tradition, it also comes with hope.  One big part of our changed tradition this year will be that our son is in rehab; he will miss being part of our traditional gathering and activity, and he is understandably a bit sad about this.  In sober times and high times, he’s always been a key personality in our holidays.

Instead, his treatment center is holding visiting hours on Christmas Day from 12:30 to 4 p.m.  Ordinarily, this is the time we would be preparing and enjoying a feast at his grandmother’s house.  The choice of where to be and what to do is obvious for us.  We will be heading over the river and through the woods to the treatment center – mom, dad, big sister and little brother.  We’ll be bringing commercially-prepared treats (my homemade cookies, fudge and peanut butter balls are stashed in the freezer for him to enjoy upon his release in the new year).  We’ll be bringing a bag full of toys (games, actually) to enjoy as a family — UNO, Cribbage, Yahtzee and others.  While it will be a different Christmas Day celebration, it will be no less of a celebration, and one we are all looking forward to.

All that positivity aside, I speak the truth when I know how odd it will feel when he’s not at our dining room table on Christmas Eve for our family’s dinner, and it will be awfully quiet on Christmas morning when he’s not there to discover what Santa left in his stocking or open presents.  At the same time, he’s a young adult and would be transitioning to new holiday routines anyway at some point, so sobriety and recovery are an excellent way to make the transition.

Happy holidays, all!

Midwestern Mama

Gifts for Young Addicts – Pioneer Press (December 2011)

I find it helpful and healing to look back at past columns and journal entries.  Here’s one from a couple of years ago that ties in with the holiday season. 

A Real Mom: What gifts can you give a child with addiction?
R.M.
MinnMoms columnist
TwinCities.com-Pioneer Press
Posted:12/04/2011 05:33:03 PM CST
Without hesitating, parents are natural givers. It starts with the miraculous gift of life and continues with gifts of protection, encouragement,
sustenance, love, praise, boundaries, hope, strength and more.
We give our best without expectation for anything in return. All the while, we’re prone to questioning if we could do better or do more. It is
the unwritten code of parenting, the natural order, the way it is. Our parenting report card may not be perfect, but it’s all A’s for effort. It is
our heart that tells us if we’ve given well, if it’s good enough.
When our son was little, it was easy to give gifts that absolutely delighted him emotionally and materially. It showed in his face and in his
behavior.
During this season of giving, I’m at a loss what to give our 19-year-old son. Certainly there are things he needs – things we’d ordinarily give
him if he was not living a transient, unemployed, addicted lifestyle further exacerbated by deceit and denial. It’s far more complicated
because material gifts (clothes, food, money and housing) fall within the taboo category of enabling, the major no-no of addiction.
Instead, we give him our prayers daily – actually, multiple times day and night when I wake up at 3 a.m. and wonder if he’s warm and safe.
We give him our love. We give him our commitment to help. We give him our best wishes. We give him all we’ve got and we keep trying to
come up with something more, something better, something of affirmation and value.
We’re learning to give him the freedom and respect to live with the outcomes of addiction and mental health, to own his problems,
challenges and choices. This is the gift I understand in my mind but find difficult to reconcile with my heart.
There are other things we have given him that I wish we hadn’t, at least not for as long as we did. We gave him benefit of the doubt way too
many times. We gave him chances to change, only to be shortchanged by more of the same. We gave him a clean slate more times than
he’s aware, including paying off substantial debts with the idea that we don’t want a poor credit record to hurt him once he gets his life
together.
We also forgave him for all we went through the past few years because we finally realized that he didn’t do these things on purpose or to
us. A combination of drugs and mental health issues has influenced his actions and choices beyond his control.
We’ve made amends, too, by realizing he is emotionally starved for the comfort and joy that home and family represent. And while we can’t
give him our trust these days to live in our home, we do welcome him to visit, to curl up in a blanket by the fireplace, to play with his little
brother and to hold hands around the table in grace before sharing a home-cooked meal.
Emotional gifts are sustaining but often aren’t noticed or appreciated unless these are absent. Material gifts, however, can be just as
important because these are physical reminders, even symbols. And this is the season of material gifts, things wrapped up in paper with
ribbons and small notions that Santa puts in stockings.
I suggested he put together a Christmas list, so we’ll see if he does and whether there are items we can give with good conscience – items
we don’t think he’d sell or leave unused. The last couple of years, his opened presents would stay unused in a pile on his bedroom floor.
The idyllic mother image in my mind compels me to pile gifts under the tree that will magically trigger a transformation in him from despair to
delight, from pessimism to optimism, from stubborn to open minded, from addiction to recovery.
During the gift-opening frenzy, sadly, I know that we’ll keep an eye on any cash that his siblings or cousins receive from relatives because
our son has had sticky fingers. (Three times in the past year he stole his little brother’s wallet full of allowance he’d been saving for an iPod;
his older sister has had cash taken from her purse; and, this summer he stole money that his grandmother gave to his cousin for doing
chores around her house. Parents of addicts nod their heads, yep, it’s part and parcel.)
Any ideas what we should wrap up for him? I know we’ll give the gifts that keep on giving – love, commitment, hope – and probably some
socks, underwear, gloves, books and favorite candies.
With no job at present, he said he won’t be able to give presents this year. It’s nice that he wants to give, but we don’t expect anything nor
do we want something he picked up at the store.
The gift we want is a gift he’ll give himself – the gift of help, of sobriety and recovery, of health and happiness.
R.M. is a Twin Cities mother who will chronicle her family’s experiences with her son’s drug addiction as a guest columnist here.

Thanks for reading,

Midwestern Mama

Tis the season of giving.

I enjoy giving gifts but admit that I’m not that confident or creative when it comes to picking out that perfect something.  Over the past several years, I’ve been particularly challenged by what to give Our Young Addict. 

Later on I will post a column I wrote on this topic a few years back.  Meanwhile, here’s a link with some ideas.  http://addictions.about.com/od/relationshipissues/tp/Five-Best-Gifts-For-A-Drug-Addict.htm

What will you give Your Young Addict?  If only we could give them the gifts of sobriety and recovery, but that is a gift we can only give ourselves.

Midwestern Mama