My Story of Recovery 1000 – Meet Randy Anderson

Through my work with the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, I’ve had the opportunity to get acquainted with board member Randy Anderson. Here,  he shares his story of recovery with gems for parents, treatment pros and young people. Way to go, Randy, for being such a wonderful voice and inspiration! MWM

My name is Randy Anderson and I’m a person in long term recovery. What that means to me is I haven’t had to use drugs or alcohol or any mind or mood altering substance since January 9th 2005. Because of my recovery I’m able to be a husband, a son, an uncle, a brother. I’m able to own a home, vote, have a job that I love, go to school, and even pay taxes. Today I’m able to live life on life’s terms and to be present every day in my own life.

My “rock bottom” occurred in 2004 when my home was raided by a DEA drug task force and I was arrested for selling drugs to support a drug habit that had become so enormous and all-consuming, selling drugs was the only option I felt I had left. After spending a short time in jail I was offered a lifesaving procedure for my disease and that procedure was affordable, effective treatment for my substance use disorder.

After taking nearly 10 months to complete a 60-day treatment program and finding a life of recovery, I had to face the consequences for my criminal activity. Nothing could prepare me for what would happen next. On July 6, 2005, I would be sentenced to 87 months in federal prison. As a first-time non-violent drug offender who was now on the path of recovery, I never imagined such a lengthy prison term would be given to me, even though my very expensive private attorney continually warned me that I was looking at a multiple year sentence. Even if I had not yet found recovery, more time in treatment is what I would have needed, not prison. I can’t believe our country incarcerates someone for so long with no consideration for the positive changes made in one’s life. I couldn’t help but ask myself, “Why me? I didn’t burglarize anyone, I didn’t assault or kill anyone, I didn’t steal from any person or businesses to support my habit and I was even paying my taxes.” On August 17, 2005, the worst day of my life, two of my dear friends drove me to Waseca Minnesota so I could self-surrendered to federal prison and begin serving my prison term.

felon-shirt

I did serve out my time and was eventually released in 2009. I maintained my recovery throughout my incarceration because I truly believed my life would be better without the use of any mind or mood altering substances. Upon release, like many that get out of prison, I was required to be supervised, for me that was to be a period of 48 months. Because I decided long ago to do whatever it takes to get my life back, I did absolutely everything that was required of me and because of that I was released after only 20 months of supervision.

By this time, I was working full time as a home improvement sales person. I did that for a few years and then, after becoming unemployed, I decided maybe it was time for a career change. With great trepidation and the GED I earned in federal prison, I enrolled in college at 43 years old, with the encouragement and support of my brilliant wife. I often refer to my first day of college as the second scariest day of my life, with the first being self-surrendering to federal prison. I enrolled in college to become an addiction counselor; something that was a dream of mine since receiving the gift of recovery.

Through the journey of college and becoming an addiction counselor, I found so many causes that I felt compelled to become involved with. One that I’m most proud of is becoming a Steering Committee member for the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. As a member of that coalition, I had several opportunities to testify in front of a variety of Minnesota legislators and legislative committees to change the drug sentencing guidelines in the state of Minnesota. I truly believe that what had happened to me should never happen to someone else and partly because of my testimony Minnesota did in fact change the drug sentencing guidelines and approximately 700 individuals in Minnesota will not go to prison each year.  There are many more details to the drug sentencing reform that I could probably write two more pages, those changes took effect August 1st 2016. Another major achievement that I’m extremely proud of was being ask to sit on the board of directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation(SRHF). Working with SRHF has provided me countless opportunities to tell my story of recovery. I’m also responsible for training and educated individuals, including law enforcement and non-ems first responders, about the life saving opioid reversal medication Naloxone. I’m also a volunteer for serval organizations including Minnesota Recovery Connection(MRC), Fed Up Coalition, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office and the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). I did complete college and receive my Associates of Science degree in Addiction counseling and now work as a full time alcohol and drug counselor at the very same facility where I found recovery nearly 12 years ago.

I never imagined the life I live today would ever be possible. I often ask myself when will I wake up from this dream? Well, the fact is this is no dream – it’s the life that I live and it’s only possible because of my recovery.

I saw the movie “The Equalizer” with Denzel Washington, not too shabby I might add, at the beginning of that movie it displayed a quote which I connected with and will forever hold close to my heart. “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain. Now I know why…

About this week’s guest blogger: Randy Anderson, ADC-T

Randy Anderson.jpgMy name is Randy Anderson and I’m a person in long term recovery from the disease of addiction. After receiving the life-saving gifts of treatment and recovery, I completed my A.S. degree in addiction counseling at Minneapolis Community & Technical College in 2015. I now work as a full-time alcohol and drug counselor at RS EDEN/Eden House – the very same treatment facility where I was once a client. A passionate advocate for recovery and reform, I serve as a member of the MN Second Chance Coalition Steering Committee and I am actively involved in the MN Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH). I’m on the Board of Directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, the organization responsible for passing Steve’s Law in 2014. One of my main duties with the foundation is overdose prevention, my responsibilities include training law enforcement, non-EMS, the public and anyone who wants to carry and know how to administer Naloxone, the medication to reverse an opioid overdose. People can and do recover from addiction. I’m living proof. I am currently pursuing my B.A. degree in human services at Bethel University and live with my wife, dog, and cat in Golden Valley, MN. #WeDoRecover #RecoveryWorks

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

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Life-saving Naloxone

When it looks like rain, half the time it seems like I don’t have an umbrella with me. Invariably, caught unprepared, that’s it when it rains – heavily. Other times, I remember an umbrella and never end up needing it. In fact, bringing an umbrella almost guarantees it won’t rain. Not a bad insurance policy given that you can’t control the weather.

The weather isn’t the only thing you can’t control. As parents, we learn that we can’t control addiction, but we can learn to be prepared for the situations that accompany it. One of those is an opioid overdose.

Before I knew much about addiction, I thought that an overdose meant that someone died. It never occurred to me that someone could survive an overdose, and I never knew that it’s possible to reverse an overdose. Heck, I didn’t even know the signs of an overdose let alone that there was such a thing as naloxone (brand name Narcan®), a drug that can reverse an overdose and save a life.

Today, I carry naloxone and believe that anyone who knows someone who uses opiates, including heroin, should be ready to reverse an overdose. Saving a life with naloxone may be the most relevant action you can take but may represent the most receptive that person will be to consider treatment and recovery.

Signs of an Overdose

According to the Harm Reduction Coalition, sometimes it can be difficult to tell if a person is just very high, or experiencing an overdose. They say, if you’re having a hard time telling the difference, it is best to treat the situation like an overdose – it could save someone’s life. Here is some of the information from their website:

If someone is really high and using downers like heroin, or pills:

  • Pupils will contract and appear small
  • Muscles are slack and droopy
  • They might “nod out”
  • Scratch a lot due to itchy skin
  • Speech may be slurred
  • They might be out of it, but they will respond to outside stimulus like loud noise or a light shake from a concerned friend.

If you are worried that someone is getting too high, it is important that you don’t leave them alone. If the person is still conscious, walk them around, keep them awake, and monitor their breathing.

The following are symptoms of an overdose:

  • Awake, but unable to talk
  • Body is very limp
  • Face is very pale or clammy
  • Fingernails and lips turn blue or purplish black
  • For lighter skinned people, the skin tone turns bluish purple, for darker skinned people, it turns grayish or ashen.
  • Breathing is very slow and shallow, erratic, or has stopped
  • Pulse (heartbeat) is slow, erratic, or not there at all
  • Choking sounds, or a snore-like gurgling noise (sometimes called the “death rattle”)
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Unresponsive to outside stimulus

If someone is making unfamiliar sounds while “sleeping” it is worth trying to wake him or her up. Many loved ones of users think a person was snoring, when in fact the person was overdosing. These situations are a missed opportunity to intervene and save a life.

It is rare for someone to die immediately from an overdose.  When people survive, it’s because someone was there to respond.

The most important thing is to act right away!

Reversing an Overdose

If a person shows signs of an overdose:

  1. Call 911 right away.
  2. Begin rescue breathing, if the person isn’t taking in air.
  3. Give the person naloxone.

Getting Naloxone & Training

Naloxone Kit & InstructionsThroughout the United States many organizations and pharmacies have naloxone available and it does not require a prescription. These same groups offer training on how to administer naloxone. It only takes a few minutes to learn how to use naloxone.

To learn more, I recommend an outstanding organization called the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. This group has become one of the nation’s go-to experts for overdose prevention, life-saving naloxone including getting it into the hands of first responders and to lay people.

Midwestern Mama

©2006 Our Young Addicts      All Rights Reserved.

Guest Blog: A Foundation for the Future by Bill Rummler

This week’s guest blogger is Bill Rummler from the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation. In this poignant blog post, he share’s his son’s story of pain, addiction and death, and the efforts of the Foundation to prevent future opioid-overdose deaths.

Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010
Lexi Reed Holtum, vice president of the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation, with high school sweetheart and fiance Steve Rummer, September 2010

Our son Steve Rummler was one of the more than 16,000 people who died from prescription drug overdoses in 2011. He died on July 1 of that year at the age of 43 and we miss him more than you can ever know.

Steve was a very intelligent and highly talented person. He was a deans list college student. He was a competitive athlete, an all-conference soccer player and division-one college prospect. He was a gifted piano, guitar and drum player who wrote many beautiful songs. He was an astute businessman and a top financial advisor in the Twin Cities.

All who knew Steve respected and loved him. He was very caring, loved being with people and was engaged to be married to Lexi, his high school sweetheart. He was in many ways the all around success story that every parent hopes their child will become. He was living the American dream and we were very proud of him.

In 1996, at the age of 28, Steve suffered a severe injury to his spine, which began his tragic story. He sought medical advice from the top doctors in Minnesota and they were never able to find what caused the shock like symptoms that surged up and down his spine every single day. The pain was especially severe at night and he suffered from lack of sleep for the rest of his life. Steve continued to work hard and play music and sports. He even ran a marathon in under four hours. He was able to be quite active during the day, but the nights were intolerable.

The pain and lack of a medical diagnosis caused Steve to become depressed. So, he was prescribed anti-depressants, which were supposed to help his depression and his pain.

He soon began to like the idea of getting help from a pill. This was a major fork in the road of his life. He had chosen pills, rather than other healthier alternatives.

The pain continued and he was then prescribed anti-anxiety medications known as benzodiazepines.

Finally, in 2005, when Steve was 37 years old, he was prescribed opioids by our family doctor. This doctor was well intentioned, but unaware of the potential side effects of these highly addictive pills.

The FDA was calling them safe and effective for treatment of long-term pain. And the pill manufacturers were making huge profits as a result.

This was the beginning of Steve’s end of life struggle. He soon began to show many of the signs of addiction, which included taking more pills than were prescribed to him in order to maintain his high and seemingly “treat” his pain. He had become totally convinced that these heroin-like pills were the only way to solve his pain problem. After he died we found a note in his handwriting: “at first it was a lifeline, now it is a noose around my neck”.

Addiction is a disease of the brain, the most valuable asset we have for dealing with life’s challenges. But, when something adversely affects our brain, it can severely limit our ability to make good choices. Taking a narcotic did not eliminate the cause of Steve’s pain; it simply made him less aware of it. His brain became numb to the pain just as it became numb to most things that matter in life.

We sadly saw this begin to unfold with Steve. Not long after he began taking opioids, we began to notice serious side effects. He lost his enthusiasm for most things in life. He often seemed out of it and would sometimes slur his words. He became less sharp in business and began losing clients. He became more irritable and blamed others for his problems. He stopped paying his taxes on time and was less punctual. He spent most his waking hours sedentary on the couch, stayed up late, slept in late and rarely exercised. He was often sick and would go for days without returning our phone calls. Always honest, he began to lie.  And the pain was still there and likely even worse. So he wanted more opioids. Steve was very sick with an addiction to the very pills that were supposed to help him.

We could see this tragic scenario unfolding, but were powerless to help. Steve had to help himself.

But the drugs numbed his brain and made him unable to do so. We begged and pleaded with him to try any alternative for help with his pain. It was heart wrenching for us.

We thought we had been good parents and now all was unraveling before our very eyes.

It is difficult for anyone to take a single opioid pill without it having some effect on that person’s mind. These drugs are basically a form of heroin that can produce a high that is very difficult to resist. Steve used prescription opioids for over five years, in ever increasing amounts.  In reality, he likely became addicted to them within the first few months.

While opioids are very risky and can lead to death when used to treat chronic pain, they do have a benefit for acute and end of life pain.

In 1995 my sister Peggy was dying from pancreatic cancer and in great pain. Her morphine pump worked wonders for her. She was in a constant state of euphoria from the drugs, but her pain was tolerable until the end. Sadly, Steve became addicted to those very drugs that were so helpful to his Aunt Peggy. For him, with chronic pain, it was a death sentence.

The tragedy of Steve’s untimely death and our resulting grief, have motivated us to work very hard to prevent others from suffering as he did.

The Steve Rummler Hope Foundation (SRHF) was born out of Steve’s death. Its mission is “to heighten awareness of the dilemma of chronic pain and the disease of addiction and to improve the associated care process”. Through its Overdose Prevention and Prescriber Education programs, and through its Advocacy efforts, SRHF saves lives, educates healthcare professionals, and engages the public as well as public-policy-makers in addressing the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdose deaths. (Opioids include narcotic painkillers and heroin). This public health crisis has been labeled an “epidemic” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

There is much that needs to be done to help pain patients avoid the risks of addiction and bring this epidemic under control. Our emphasis has been to focus first on the areas in which we can have the greatest immediate impact: stopping overdose deaths and educating physicians about the responsible prescribing of opioids.

At its inception in 2011, SRHF founders explored the nonprofit environment for organizations focused on providing hope for those with chronic pain and addiction. They found that there was a need for this focus and were encouraged to fill the gap. To date, this uniqueness has led to many opportunities for success and many demands from the community for us to do more.

We encourage you to get to know more about the SRHF. Please visit our website at:

http://www.steverummlerhopefoundation.org/

Here you can learn about Steve’s Law, a Minnesota good-Samaritan and Naloxone law, named for our son Steve. The implementation of this law (similar laws are in effect in many other states) has already saved, and will continue to save, many lives. Our website has a wealth of other information, too.

Please consider making a donation to help us continue our life saving work. Anything you can give will be very much appreciated.

Finally, we encourage you to tell others about us and join us in our effort to change and save lives.

Thank you for your interest.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing your story with the #OYACommunity. We are grateful for your efforts and accomplishment on behalf of families and friends who are concerned about substance use and addiction.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved