Parenting A Teenager with Addiction: The Hardest Challenge Of My Life

Ever since my child was little, I always strived to be the best parent I could be.

I wanted my child to have everything he could ever want.

When I was a teenager I was addicted to alcohol, so it was difficult for me to ever think about my child having an addiction.

Then, it happened.

One day he came home and something was different.

I could see it in his eyes.

 He was on drugs.

 How did I not find out sooner?

 Why didn’t I recognize the signs?

 After I thought back for a bit, I realized I just didn’t want to see it.

He had started hanging out with new friends during the summer after his junior year.

He was hanging out with them in the evenings and on weekends.

His grades had been falling during his senior year as well.

I should have known, but as a parent I just didn’t see it until he had already become addicted.

I went through his room that night and found his stash of marijuana and heroin.

When I confronted him that night, he was so angry with me.

He got defensive and slammed his door.

He even said that he never wanted to talk to me again and that he hated me.

I cried for hours.

My son was 18 at the time and he had his whole life in front of him.

What was I going to do?

I would do anything to save him from the addictive lifestyle that I had gone through.

However, as a recovering alcoholic myself, I knew he was the one who had to put the work in.

He would have to overcome the addiction, not me.

I could be there to support and help him, but I couldn’t do it for him.

Getting through to him…

A few days later, I sat my son down and told him I just wanted to talk.

The first thing I did was tell him I understood.

I told him about my own addiction, the struggles I went through, and let him know that nobody was there for me.

I didn’t have family members who understood. 

They all thought I was just having fun when drinking and didn’t really believe in addictions.

They also didn’t believe in getting help to quit drinking.

I told him about everything I had gone through and how much I was grateful for my recovery.

During this talk, I told him how proud I was that he would be graduating this year and asked him to tell me about his hopes and dreams for the future.

He explained that he wanted to be an engineer and all about his hopes of going to college.

I told him how great that was and explained how an addiction could derail that.

I didn’t judge him or tell him what he was doing was wrong.

I just listened, gave him support, and told him I would be there for him if he was ready to go to rehab.

I explained to him what happens in rehab and how supportive they would be with helping him overcome the addiction.

I told him he didn’t have to answer me that night and he could think about it.

Five days later, he came to me after school and told me he was ready to go to rehab. 

I knew he would need inpatient rehab and I talked to his school.

They said as long as he was willing to take summer school to make up the class time and work he would miss, he could still graduate that year.

I was amazed by their support and understanding during this tough time.

The next day my son was enrolled into an inpatient rehab center.

The program would last for 60 days.

Rehab and full support…

In the rehab center my son attended, they had family night every Sunday, and I was there every time.

He went through detox first which lasted 7 days.

I wanted my son to know I was supporting him through all of this.

He had to know there were people on his side and that I loved him no matter what.

The first few weeks were tough and really difficult to see him in the rehab center.

However, I knew I had to hold it together.

I won’t lie.

I cried when I got home, every single time.

After a bit, it got easier.

I could tell he was doing better and wanting to improve his life.

He would tell me about what he learned in therapy and the group sessions.

The final two weeks, I wanted to make sure I had everything ready for him when he came home.

I made sure to clean the house and create a schedule, where we would check in with one another.

Coming home and working the program…

The rehab center my son attended sent him home with an aftercare plan.

It included attending individual therapy once a week and group therapy once a week.

They wanted him to attend NA meetings three times a week as well.

We talked about all of this before he left the rehab center.

When he got home, we went over the schedule and he gave input on things he wanted to change.

We agreed on times we would check-in with each other.

He knew that I was there if he needed to talk, but I wasn’t going to hound him about his recovery.

He had to hold himself accountable and I think that helped him knowing that he had to do it.

The first year was the most difficult because I had a very difficult time trusting that he wasn’t using.

Any time he was away from me or  if he didn’t answer his cell phone on the first ring, I was concerned.

I had to let him be and let him work his program.

He never relapsed.

He attended all of his therapy sessions and NA meetings.

He even attended the summer program and graduated that year.

Now, he is two years clean, and I couldn’t be more proud.

He is my son and I love him with all my heart.

He knows his recovery is a lifelong process and he is still working his program.

 We still check in with each other, as we did since he came home from rehab.

 Written By Charles Watson of Sunshine Behavioral Health

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.

 

©2018 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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Still Letting Go

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

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

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

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

Letting Go by Sandra E. McBride

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2017 Our Young Addicts          All Rights Reserved

The Road to Finding Higher Power and Myself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author: 

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

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

 ©2017 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

The Trek to Treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Navigating Addiction during the Holidays

With Thanksgiving 2016 one week away, the holiday season kicks off. This can be a particularly challenging time for families whose loved ones are using drugs and alcohol. Today’s guest blogger is Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.  She share first-hand experience as well as professional guidance to help families, and was one of our panel speakers at our conference this past year. Thank you, Sherry, for your blog post!

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Oh, the holidays!  When we think of them, so many thoughts and images pop into our heads!  Snow!  Family!  Food!  Togetherness!  Traditions, old and new!  Excitement is in the air, and we start planning how and when our ideal holiday will come together.  Unfortunately, for those who have a loved one struggling with alcoholism or addiction, an additional level of stress typically accompanies the holidays: worry that our imagined holiday will turn into our worst-case scenario.

When Our Young Addicts asked me to write a blog post on how to navigate the holidays when addiction is present, my first thought was “Yes!  What a great topic!  This will be so helpful!”  As I thought about it more, the task became a little more overwhelming.

As someone who works with family members in the addiction recovery field, as well as being a family member myself, I know there is no right or wrong way to navigate the holidays when addiction is present.  But, there may be a way that’s right for you, which is what I hope to address.

My husband and I live in a different states than our families, and we make it a point to be with them over the holidays.  For a number of years, we would get caught off guard by the ups and downs of addiction.  Each year we would start out with our vision of the holiday and prepare for it.  We’d ask for Christmas lists, and go shopping for the perfect presents.  We’d be in contact with everyone in advance to make sure we could all get together.  We would plan festive menus, and listen to holiday music on our drive across the Midwest.  We wanted to experience what so many of us want to experience: family.  We wanted to be in the midst of the love and connection, and thought if we could just plan far enough in advance that we’d get exactly that.

Unfortunately, the addiction in our family wasn’t playing along.  Although there are a few in our family who have struggled with alcoholism and addiction, when I think about the holidays, I often think of my step-son, who is a meth addict.

We would embark into our greeting-card-worthy vision of the holiday, but addiction would stand in our way.  There would be times when we’d reach out to him, and not hear back.  There would be times when he would come, and show up despondent.  There were other times when he would show up and would be angry at the world.  There were times when he left on an evening saying that he’d be back tomorrow, and we didn’t see him again for the rest of the time that we were there (we once found out later that he ended up in jail for a while).  There were visits that ended in loud arguments.  And, then there were the times that he showed up as his incredibly witty, big-hearted, intelligent self – and the family would try to figure out how we had magically set the stage for this to happen so we could be sure to recreate it again, and again.  Of course, we were always confused when we tried to reenact the situation at another time, only to have a completely different, and often heart-breaking, outcome.

One of the things we needed to do as a family was to know what we were up against.  Sometimes the fact that someone is struggling with addiction becomes apparent during the holidays, especially since we usually see each other more at this time than other times throughout the year.

At times families fall into the trap of thinking that someone who is struggling with addiction is just behaving badly.  It’s helpful to know the signs of addiction and alcoholism.

Both the National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.drugabuse.gov) and the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (www.ncadd.org) have helpful information.   Educating yourself allows you the opportunity to know what you’re dealing with, and will be helpful in understanding what to do next.

As a family member, I have found that getting support for myself has been imperative.

There is no way that you can watch someone become entangled with alcoholism and addiction without being affected.  Family members often feel that if they love someone enough, and say and do the right things, they’ll be able to fix their loved one so they no longer have the struggles that they have.  To be around others who have had a similar experience in their reactions, and who have found a way to cope with it, helps to break the shame and stigma we often carry where addiction is concerned.  The easiest and most accessible way to find support from others who have been there, too, is through Al-Anon (www.al-anon.org) or Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org).  So many family members keep the addiction in their family a secret.  Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide safe places to talk about it.

Talking about the holidays was important for our family, as well.  We needed to decide what we wanted our holiday to look like, and be focused on what was realistic.  If your loved one is actively using, what is realistic may be different than at other times.

Some families decide that they need to set some clear boundaries: that their loved one is only invited if the can be clean and sober during the gathering.  They also need to have a plan in place on how they’ll honor that boundary if it’s not met.

Some find that they want their loved one included in everything regardless, so that they know that they are in a safe place.

Some families decide to change how they will celebrate so that they can all meet at a place where anyone can easily leave from if they feel uncomfortable.

As I stated before, there is no right or wrong in deciding this.  There is only what is best for you and for your family.  These decisions are more easily made with an understanding of addiction, and remembering that the person you love is still the person you love, even though their disease may bring unwanted attitudes or behavior.  These decisions are also more easily made when you have support.

Families have choices, and they get to make them – including during the holiday season.

Our family feels blessed that we have received the gift that so many of us hope and pray for, the gift of my step-son’s recovery.  He’s been clean with the help of Narcotics Anonymous for more than three years, and we love watching his life unfold.  That witty, big-hearted, intelligent guy shows up most of the time, and even when he shows up occasionally as someone who’s going through a difficult time for whatever situation is happening in his life, we trust that he will navigate in whatever way that he needs to with the support of his people in his recovery circle.  And, yet, we may have gotten a little too excited when our first holiday came around and we thought “Finally!  We get to have our ideal holiday!  There will be SO much togetherness!  We’ll be a Norman Rockwell painting!”

We found that going through the holiday in early recovery was going to take some navigation, as well.

My step-son did a great job of talking to us about what he needed, which wasn’t non-stop family time.  For many folks, the holidays can trigger or exacerbate addiction.  My step-son needed to find his own balance.  His primary focus was to continue to build the foundation of recovery, and we needed to honor that.  We listened, and we trusted that he would show up for what was important for him, and that he would do what he needed to support himself when he needed to do so.  And, we stayed focused on taking care of ourselves, and being grateful for the time we got to have with this wonderful, clean, clear-eyed young man.

Even if the gift of recovery hasn’t happened in your family, my hope for each of you is that you’ll find moments of peace and joy.  I believe that they are there and accessible to all of us, even if our loved one is actively struggling.  Remember to learn what you are up against, find support for yourself, talk about it – and listen.  Be gentle with yourself and your loved one.  I believe that we are all doing the best that we can with the tools that we have, and I’m hopeful that these new tools will be helpful to you as you embark on this holiday season.

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.

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.

The Person Who Listened – Thank You!

Throughout our experience with our son’s addiction, there were many people (licensed professionals) who listened – initially – but stopped hearing what we were saying shortly thereafter. They were somewhat helpful, but not ultimately helpful. They offered us what they could, but not necessarily what we needed. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

In no way do I think this was intentional, but unfortunately, it seems like it’s the norm more often than not. That’s because addiction and mental health are complex, and most professionals are either generalists or specialists. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

Yet, we kept seeking, kept learning, kept trying. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

We got better at sharing our situation, at asking for help, at discerning the options. We kept trying to find that person.

Still, it was frustrating. Every parent who is witnessing their kid’s addiction knows what I’m talking about. Throughout the process, we learn that our role is to become educated, to provide unconditional love, to provide emotional support, to set healthy boundaries, to insist on answers and to press for information, to hope and pray, to keep on keeping on. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

At first, this was our exercise. We were the ones who knew there was a problem and wanted to get help for our son. He was in denial. He was not interested. He didn’t want to talk, didn’t want to listen. So, we did all the leg work.

Years later, it became his exercise. He was somewhat ready to get help, to stop using, to start addressing mental health needs. But everyone wanted to push him into traditional programs – programs that he wasn’t interested in. You might argue that these are good programs – and they are – but without his buy in, these simply wouldn’t work for him.

Aha! We were beginning to realize that there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment, sobriety and recovery.

But, the majority of professionals weren’t on board with this. Again, the frustration mounted. Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.

You’re starting to see the pattern here: “Until our son met the person who put things in motion and the person who made it happen.” Thank goodness, we kept trying to find this person and our son was, too.

Who was this person? The first person was a mental-health assessment professional who listened AND provided concrete feedback and steps our son could take. Interestingly, the pro said, “Get 30 to 60 days of sobriety through treatment and then come back; but, in the meantime, here’s how you go about getting the treatment program that you want.”

He offered up another assessment option called Rule 25 (a Minnesota program through the Department of Human Services). I will forever be grateful for this person who listened and put things in motion with clear, actionable steps that my son could embrace – because he’d been heard.

After some procrastination, my son made an appointment for a Rule 25 assessment, and without hesitation, the assessor identified three options that met my son’s preferences.

She was not trying to stick him in a program he didn’t want or an approach he couldn’t embrace. She was also able to put a name to what he was looking for – an approach called Health Realization. All these years and no one had ever given the approach he wanted a name; yet, here it was, an actual approach. I will forever be grateful for this person who listened and put things in motion with clear, actionable steps that my son could embrace – because he’d been heard.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

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By Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.

Thank you, Sherry, for being part of #fsts16. We are pleased to have you elaborate on many of the points from the panel discussion that took place at From Statistics to Solutions: Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. MWM

When parents arrive at our Family Program, they are typically experiencing a variety of different emotions.  Some of them arrive feeling desperate, as they are tremendously fearful for the well-being of their child, and are out of ideas about what to do.  Some of them arrive confused, as it makes no sense that they have raised this beautiful child with their best efforts and values, and, yet, the disease of addiction is still present.  Some of them arrive angry, because it’s really frustrating to deal with the behaviors that happen when someone is actively using.  And, some of them are just exhausted, because standing guard over your child’s life is all-consuming.

To say it’s not easy to be a parent of a child who struggles with alcoholism or addiction is an extreme understatement.  When the dreams and aspirations for the person you love are side-tracked by addiction, what is left behind is the stuff most parental nightmares are made of.

Our society doesn’t help with these nightmares.  In fact, someone outside of the situation who hasn’t had firsthand experience with alcoholism or addiction may easily make judgements.  It’s a common belief that if a child is “good” or “bad” it has to do with how they have been parented.  Most people look at alcoholism and addiction as a moral failing, rather than a disease or disorder.  There is much stigma placed on families who are impacted by addiction, even though alcoholism was first declared a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956, and, addiction has been placed in this category, as well.  This information alone doesn’t seem to stop the judgements, or stop a parent from taking their child’s addiction personally.

I know it was something my husband took personally.  Even though he understood the disease of addiction better than most because he is in long-term recovery himself, understanding what to do as two out of three of his children struggled with their own addictions, and the consequences that surrounded them, escaped him.  I took it personally, as well, thinking that if I had a different role in their lives, or maybe if his prior marriage was still intact, something would be different for these two.

Despite the stories we create in our heads about all of this, the facts remain the same.

Good parenting doesn’t stop addiction.  There is no amount of loving someone that can change their physiology or propensity for alcoholism or addiction.  Bad parenting doesn’t create addiction. 

There are many who have survived less than ideal childhoods who have grown up to live happy, productive lives without the cloud of addiction.

And, yet, most of us still want to blame something or someone for this issue.  I was recently involved in a conversation where a question was posed: What are some of the road blocks and challenges that hinder collaboration with working with youth struggling with addiction?  With so many obstacles that stand in the way, I was looking forward to the answers, so we could start addressing them!  I was surprised to hear that one of the people involved believed the major obstacle was parents.

As she explained, I understood her standpoint.  Sometimes parents, in their confusion around the situation, get caught up in denial.  They want to believe that their beloved child would know better.  They want to believe that addiction couldn’t possibly touch their family.  They want to believe that it’s just a phase.  They don’t want to live in the embarrassment and shame associated with alcoholism or addiction, and who can blame them, really?

But, sometimes we still blame.  It’s fairly common in the world today that when something goes “awry” we want answers and to know who is responsible.  If it’s a child, then the parent must be at fault.  Even those of us working in the addiction recovery field we hear the comments about the parents that are more of a problem than their child.  We may have even made those comments.

The truth of the situation is that parents are doing the best they can with the information that they have.  They are doing their very best.  They want the very best for their child.  The assumption should not be that they are to blame.  The assumption should always be that they are loving their child as much as they possibly can.

The question for those of us who work with these parents is: How do we help families from blaming themselves?

In my experience, the best place to start is creating a safe place for them to talk.  Isolation is a key symptom of addiction, and is present on both sides of the disease.  Parents who have a child struggling with addiction often isolate themselves trying to protect their child and their reputation, not realizing this is also blocking them from receiving help.  If a parent starts talking, they will share information on how we can best help them.  They’ll talk about their fears, their confusion, their hopes and their plans.  The best thing anyone can do is listen.

When we listen, we will hear when a parent is ready to learn more.  The next important thing we can do for a parent is help them to really understand addiction.  Education around chemical dependency, how it happens and what it looks like, can help to clear up some of the confusion families have.  Although families typically understand addiction on an intellectual basis, their emotions haven’t always caught up yet, and these emotions add to their underlying reactions.  In my experience, when families have the opportunity to really learn about addiction, and have the questions that they have answered, it helps them to navigate the situation better.

However, as stated earlier, education isn’t enough.  Although it’s extremely helpful, it doesn’t answer the question most parents want answered “So, now what do I do?”  How do I get my loved one into recovery?  How am I supposed to be as they navigate early recovery?  How am I supposed to show up if my loved one relapses?

Typically, parents with a child who is actively using have one major fear: their child will not stop using and won’t be able to find recovery. 

Often times that fear continues after a child is getting help, but it turns to fear that their child may not be able to maintain their recovery.  Although their child may be doing everything they had hoped that they would do, parents may still be having the same reactions as they did when their child was using.  It is imperative families find support for themselves, as well.

A study by Laudet, Morgen, and White, (The Role of Social Supports) states “Support, in particular, recovery-oriented support, is likely to be critical to alcohol and other drug users, especially early on…”  It would stand to reason that recovery-oriented support would be helpful for parents and families, as well.  In fact, John Kelly, Ph.D. and Director of the Recovery Research Institute, was recently quoted to have said “Social support is good, but recovery specific social support is more important.”,  which also can be interpreted that a parent’s love is good, but a parent’s love with the support of recovery is more important.

The greatest gift I’ve received is something that can be passed along to others: the gift of family recovery. 

Recovery is community.  It is the support of other people who know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction.  Recovery offers ideas and resources based on the experience of others.  Recovery offers a common language to talk about addiction, and the communication skills to reconnect with each other.  Recovery offers opportunity for healing.  Recovery offers hope.  The same process that helps our children recover can help other family members, too.  Family recovery offers answers to the question, “So, now what do I do?”

When my husband’s son started his recovery journey from his meth use, we were cautiously optimistic.  He was doing better than we’d seen him do in recent years, but we weren’t sure it would last.  We understand that this disease is chronic and can be fatal.  Through recovery, we also knew that placing our fears on him would not be helpful.  We also knew that the time that he spent in a facility was just the beginning of the journey.  The real work would happen for him in his own recovery community.

Three years later, we get to see the gifts of recovery turn into a full blown miracle.  We’ve watched him walk through the highs and lows of early recovery.  We’ve watched him take ownership.  We’ve watched him make decisions, good and bad.  We’ve watched that he’s let us know what’s going on in his world.  He did it in his own time, with his own support around him.  And, we needed our support around us.

Parents don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone.  Learn more about addiction.  Find others who understand addiction who can support you in this process.  And, please, remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have, including you.

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart is the Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has worked with The Retreat’s Family Program since its inception. Sherry is a certified spiritual director and has been an active participant in Twelve-Step recovery since 1999.  In addition to her work at The Retreat, she has lead spiritual retreats and is a meditation teacher.  She is also involved in the Kids’ Programming at The Retreat, for children aged 7-12 years old who are growing up in families affected by chemical dependency.

Side note: The Retreat offers a generous scholarship program to help defray the cost of participation in its programs.

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.

Taking an AND instead of OR perspective: The Minnesota Model 2.0

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Melrose Center, an eating-disorder specialty clinic in the Twin Cities, was a generous sponsor for our addiction-prevention conference in May 2016. Today’s guest blogger is Jason Reed, one of our panel experts who addressed solutions to co-occurring disorders, which are common among young people with addiction.He’s prepared an encouraging and thought-provoking perspective on why we need to find the best approaches to treatment rather than being pressured into a rigid acceptance of just one way. MWM

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, and some would say, the land of 10,000 substance abuse treatment centers. The actual number of treatment centers is actually more like 500. Regardless, Minnesota put addiction treatment on the map by developing the very first formal treatment approach for alcoholism and other substance use disorders. It’s called The Minnesota Model and has been replicated across the world and has helped millions of people. The 12-step philosophy of AA and NA is an integral component of the Minnesota Model.

As a psychologist working primarily in the area of addiction, I often hear 12-step programs pitted against evidence based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

It’s as if as a clinician, I have to somehow choose a side, and then stick to it. It’s 12-steps or CBT.

At this point in my career, I’ve grown weary of the word or. In CBT the tendency to think in either/or terms is called “black and white” or “dichotomous” thinking. This can lead to a lot of mental and emotional suffering. Modern American society is full of examples of headline-driven questions that make us feel forced to chose a side: do guns kill or do people kill? Are you a Republican or Democrat? We get put in an either/or dilemma.

Most rational and reasonable people would likely concede that when trying to understand a phenomenon, it’s best to take an approach that can account for multiple variables and potential influences. However, we as humans seem to have a natural tendency or desire to align ourselves with a particular side or “camp”.

In the field of psychology, our camps are based on different theories of the mind and human behavior. Theories are useful and necessary, and serve as a framework for trying to understand these things.

However, holding onto a particular theory too tightly can sometimes cause us to miss the forest for the trees.

The field of psychology has also at times fallen victim to dichotomous thinking when trying to understand the origins and treatment of human suffering. This has led to questions such as: is it nature or nurture? is early attachment or temperament more important? Are mental health problems best described in categories of symptoms or better understood on a continuum? Is it the technique or the skill level of the clinician that produces change? The list goes on and on. Intuitively we know the answer is probably somewhere in the middle, but we still feel pressure to cling to one particular camp.

 

During graduate school I felt pressure, mostly from myself, to come up with my own unique theory of human behavior and treating mental health disorders. And I thought I had it figured out by the end of my training. Now over a decade into my career, I’m realizing that I know much less now than I did back then. My theory is much less clear. And I think that’s a good thing.

I now teach at the school I graduated from. For one of the courses I teach, Counseling and Personality Theories, I intentionally start the semester off by discussing some of the existing research that indicates the theoretical principle you pick makes less difference than other variables such as the therapeutic relationship and client factors.This forces students to sit with the frustration of not having a simple, clear answer, and to instead appreciate the complexity of human behavior and the process of change.

Addiction, and in particular the behaviors that arise from addictions, are among the most complex and confusing of all human phenomenon.

The addiction field has to grapple with some of its own often befuddling questions:

Is addiction a chronic, progressive disease that requires intervention or do most people get better on their own, without treatment?

Are substance use disorders caused by genetic factors (biomedical model) or are they the result of trying to cope with difficulties in life (self-medication model)

Is complete abstinence necessary for full recovery or can people live a quality life while still using substances?

Should family members detach and protect themselves as not to enable the addiction, or can they influence the behavior of their addicted loved one?

Do you need a personal history of struggling with addiction to be able to understand and treat it, or do you need a high degree of training and professional licensure?

We have some big questions facing the addiction field and how we are going to evolve our understanding, prevention and treatment of addiction. Perhaps the least helpful response to this profound conundrum would be to fall back into black and white thinking and look for simple answers and then divide into camps.

In many ways there is still a lot we don’t understand about addiction. Most experts can’t even agree on a shared definition of addiction. And there are many, many different pathways to addiction.

One of the greatest advances in behavior therapy over the last several decades has been Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Created by Marsha Linehan and now disseminated and used all over the world, DBT has been shown to be effective for a variety of difficult to treat conditions. The philosophy of the approach is based largely on the idea of a “dialectic”, which assumes everything has its contradictions or opposing forces. In essence it involves the art of holding two opposing ideas in mind; specifically with DBT, balancing change with acceptance. Approaches like DBT have taught us the importance of balance, and the power of the word and.

The ultimate dialectic in addiction treatment may be that you need to treat the addiction as a primary disorder and the underlying factors that drive it to keep going. When we can’t prevent it, people suffering from addiction deserve the best possible treatment we have available. And we will only arrive at the most effective treatments by bringing everyone together from all the various camps and disciplines.

It may be time to take a step back from what we think we know about addiction, and come together to better understand it.

We will need to have some difficult conversations and we will need to bring people together who have very different ideas about addiction and how to treat it. Going through this process will be a good thing for the addiction field, but more importantly, for the individuals and families at risk for, or currently struggling with addiction. We owe it to future generations to put in this difficult, messy work, so we can come out with something even better.

Then, from our combined efforts, we can build a truly integrated treatment approach and we can call it The Minnesota Model 2.0.

Dr. Jason Reed is an Addiction Psychologist, Adjunct Professor and founder of the Minnesota Integrative Treatment and Recovery Enterprise (MinCARE). MinCARE is a consulting, training and advocacy organization committed to improving the quality of care and outcomes for all individuals struggling with addiction and co-occurring disorders in the state of Minnesota.

www.mincare.com

info@mincare.com

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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

The Ride

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With a son currently in treatment for drug addiction, this week’s guest blogger Charma Carpenter shares a story of recovery – in progress. It’s a “ride” many of us are on yet is full of hope that the ride is going in the right direction. MWM.

When my son first started using drugs, I was in denial and believed everything he told me. His eyes were red because he couldn’t sleep; he was acting differently because of his migraines.

Once I opened myself to the fact that my son was an addict, I isolated myself. I had no one to talk to about his addictions, and didn’t know what to say anyway. It’s not easy talking about your son if it isn’t about his accomplishments on the team or in the classroom or at work. I was drowning myself in tears and suffocating in my own isolation.

Once his name became a repeated name on the local radio and in the local newspapers, I put on the badge of humiliation for years. The stigma that attaches itself to “the parent of…” brought about more shame and guilt than I ever knew existed. As I worked through these feelings, I became aware that I held the same stigma. The reason I was feeling guilt was because I too, felt that addicts came from bad families. Add another medal of humility to my daily wardrobe.
Some people avoided me, almost like I was contagious. Others were more nosy than a reporter for a trash magazine. Still others pretended that nothing was different. I had too many other things going on with my other children to address any of it.

I just kept it all inside, while my mind was screaming, “Please, someone ask me about ME! Someone please, just tell me what to do!”

Years went by and I tried to reject the feelings of guilt and shame. They were no longer a part of my daily wardrobe, but I would still drape them over my shoulders every once in a while.

I would receive wedding invitations or baby announcements from young adults that had gone to high school with my eldest son, and the curtain of depression would engulf me.

This is what my son should be doing with his life now! Instead he was couch-surfing and drug seeking and looking worse EVERY time I saw him.

If only we could get him into rehabilitation. If only the time spent in jail would be long enough to take the cravings away. If only he would listen to what we parents were telling him! Guilt and shame were replaced with anger and frustration. I wore those emotions for many years! And those articles of emotions would come out of no where on some days. I would attack anyone who was around when the anger flashed through my mind and erupted.

I finally began to journal my emotions so I could try to gain some control of myself.

I began to read and study the Bible. And yet, the roller coaster continued to take twists and turns I was not ready for. I still worried and stressed, but the more I read the Bible, the more at peace I felt. I began to understand that God was in control, not me. I committed my son to the Lord and slowly began to get involved with activities again.

I broke the silence of my son’s addiction.

I began talking about it with members of my church. I began bringing up the topic at family functions, to avoid the awkwardness other family members were feeling. I opened myself up to the emotions and let the tears fall freely. And I leaned on God even more. I now had people from my church praying for my son and my family. I had a strong support group that realized addiction is a family disease. It affects the entire family.
I joined Nar-anon online and I’m re-learning how to take care of me. I am letting go of my control issues and allowing God to be in control. I am admitting out loud that my son has an addiction, and that does not make him a bad person.
And yet the roller coaster flips upside down again. My son chose to enter rehabilitation on his own. He entered after being in jail for three months, and has been there for four months. He is clean, learning coping skills, and working. But now the stress of graduation is upon him. He is worried about getting a job and a place to live upon graduation. And he is still just a crawler when it comes to handling stress and anxiety without the comfort of drugs. And the helplessness is trying to overtake my wardrobe. It is emotionally challenging to listen to my adult son crying on the phone because he is so stressed out. I continue to encourage and praise and yet my heart finally admits that graduation of rehab will not be the end of the ride.
I did not get on this ride by my choice. I do not like the ride. I am never going to be able to fully unbuckle and step away from this ride. In one way or another, I will be on this ride for the rest of my life. But I have learned to slow it down.

I have learned to embrace the good thrills that are on this ride: The strength in the hugs I get when I visit him; the smile that shines from his eyes when he teases his little brother; and the healthy look that reflects his hard work.

My son chose to use drugs the first time. My son became addicted. My son chose rehab. I chose to enable out of concern. I chose to let go of the control. I chose to take care of me and slow the ride down.

My son and I are both in recovery. And we are learning to take each day one beautiful moment at a time.

The author of the book, Just Commit Me, Charmla Carpenter lives in rural Iowa. She and her husband have three sons in three totally different places in life: One in rehab, one in grad school, and one in elementary school. Charm’s faith keeps her focused on living each day in honor of God. Follow her on Twitter @charmcarp1

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.

 

Opioid: Drug Addiction Support and Recovery

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This week’s guest blogger is Joshna Roy, who writes to inform us about opioid addiction and treatment – an epidemic and growing concern. MWM

Opioid addiction is not just a personal problem. It affects the entire family. When a son or daughter gets addicted to opioids, then people who suffer the most are his/her parents, siblings, and grandparents.

Of late, there has been a lot of talk about opioid crisis in the US. Thousands of people have lost their lives in the past couple of years. Here is an infographic showing the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire, which is one of the worst affected states in the US.

Do you have a drug-addicted son/daughter in your home? If so, what should you do to save them from addiction? This post will teach you some simple ways to save your child from opioid addiction. Before that, it’s important to know some key differences between opioid and non-opioid drugs.

OPIOID AND NON-OPIOID DRUGS

Opioids are Narcotic drugs whereas non-opioids are non-narcotic in nature. There is a lot of difference between the two classes of drugs:

  • Opioids act on the Central Nervous System (CNS) whereas non-opioids act on the Peripheral Nervous System (PNS).
  • Opioids are addictive whereas non-opioids are non-addictive.
  • Opioids belong to the class of Schedule II/III controlled drugs whereas non-opioids do not belong to the class of controlled drugs
  • Opioids cause no anti-inflammatory effect whereas non-opioids cause anti-inflammatory effect
  • Adverse effects of Opioids include sedation, shortage of breath, and constipation whereas adverse effects of non-opioids include gastric irritation, renal toxicity, and external bleeding.
  • Opioids have no ceiling effect but non-opioids have ceiling effect. i.e. they increase in dosage leads to horrible side effects but not increase in analgesia.

 Treatment and Recovery for Your Son/Daughter from Opioid Addiction

1.  Research and learn all you can

In order to save your child from drug addiction, it’s important that you know what it is and how it affects your child and what are the various options to treat the problem. Start with a basic research on the Internet. Get to know what these drugs are and how they work in the body.

 2. Observe them and identify their ‘cycle’

Since opioids create a sense of dependency and tolerance on the user, it’s important that you carefully observe the symptoms and effects of these drugs on your children. Does your a son/daughter experience minor symptom like body pain, restlessness, and excessive sweating or advanced symptoms like irregular heart beat rate, nausea and vomiting, and diarrhea. Identifying the level of addiction is moving one step closer towards eliminating it.

 3. Get advice from people who’ve been through it

Once you’ve learned the symptoms and impact of the drug on your child, the next thing you can do is to seek advice from people who have already come out of opioid addiction. It’s a major problem in the U.S. so you start a discussion on any forum or blog and ask people for advice. Who knows? Some of the remedies and suggestions by people who have crossed the path of drug addiction might just be what you’re looking for to save your child from drug addiction.

  1. Seek Medical Help

Visit the detox centers in your area and ask them for quick help. Usually, they will start by monitoring your child’s activities and determine the extent of addiction and appropriately take steps to help your child overcome opioid addiction. That includes opioid antidotes such as trazadone and Chloral hydrate to control nervous problems and restlessness and lead to proper sleep in the night. The personal treatment plan that most detox facilities suggest could be very effective in dealing with addiction recovery. It includes medical support and counseling as well.

 Final Thoughts

Opioid addiction is a disease, and it can’t be cured in a single day. it requires a step-by-step procedure from basic to higher level recovery options. Follow the advice mentioned above, and you will be able to give some relief to your addicted son/daughter.

AUTHOR BIO

Joshna Roy - Withdrawl Ease - guest blogger - May 2016

Joshna Roy is the writer and social media strategist at withdrawal-ease.com, a blog that educates readers on detox and withdrawal options for Opioid addicts. She is a health and fitness expert and writes mostly on topics relating to health, psychology and paleontology.

How Many Times Can a Son Break His Mom’s Heart?

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This week’s guest blogger is Chris from Sober City USA – the creator of Sober Cards. Now six years in recovery from an addiction that started in his teens, he reflects on one of his most important and valued relationships – the relationship with his mother. Thank you, Chris, for sharing your experience with our readers. MWM.

That question weighed heavy on my mind while I was in treatment.  I guessed I had probably lost count after a hundred and that was before I got into my late twenties.  I am an alcoholic, a drug addict, a child of an alcoholic and drug addict, and a child of an amazingly wonderful woman.  I am also a 39 year old momma’s boy, born a momma’s boy and always will be one.

My mom is the most incredible and amazing woman on the planet.  She would do anything to make you feel special and feel like the most important person in the room. There is not a mean bone in her body and she doesn’t have a mean thing to say about anyone.  She finds the beauty in everyone. So why was it easy for me to break her heart for 15 straight years?  Because I’m an addict, and nothing mattered more to me than my drugs and my alcohol.  I didn’t care who I was hurting, even the most important people (woman) in my life.

I started drinking when I was 17, consistently blacking out by 18 and actively abusing drugs by the age of 23. I guess you could say I was destined to be an alcoholic. My dad is an alcoholic (in recovery), his dad was and his grandfather before that was an alcoholic.  To top it, my mom’s dad was an alcoholic and many of my first cousins are alcoholics (most in recovery now).  Addiction runs thick in our family blood line.

Just so you don’t think I’m a total piece of shit son, I’m going to condense the heartbreak moments to just a few, and save all of us from a drunk log. I do feel it necessary for you to understand the hurt I caused and hopefully after reading this, you can take something positive away from it.

All my mom wanted to do was love me, hold me, tell me everything was going to be OK. She wanted to spend time with me, be my parent, give me advice and tell me life was going to turn out OK.  My mom wanted to know about me, my life, my friends and understand my world and tell me my world was OK.  When I was in active addiction I never let her in.  I always kept her at a distance, because I was hiding a deep dark secret: I was an alcoholic drug addict.

When I would come home from college to visit for long weekends and holidays, my mom would beg me not to stay out late and to be in bed early.  Looking back, it was because she never slept when I was out.  She stayed up all night praying that I would come home in one piece.  She tossed and turned, praying till 8a most mornings!  The nights I did come home, I would wake everyone up in the family, by accident (I was not a pleasant drunk man). Even though at first everyone loved having me home, I quickly wore out my welcome.

My parents hated the idea of me moving to Los Angeles.  They knew I was border lining alcoholism, they just didn’t know how bad it had gotten when I moved to LA.  Yet, they still wanted to spend time with me and visit.  Having them out to visit was hard work.  I was hiding a drug fueled lifestyle that didn’t know any boundaries.  When they would visit, night would come, they would go to bed, and as soon as they were a sleep, my night would start.  Drugs, alcohol, sneaking out to meet friends (like I was in high school) and staying out all night; causing me to either sleep the entire next day or be a total moody asshole running on fumes. My parents spent a ton of money and energy to visit me; I treated them like second class citizens while they were there.  My addiction didn’t care who got treated poorly.

I’ve always lived in a different city than my parents, only a few hours away in distance. There were hundreds of times they came to visit me. I usually lied to them on why they couldn’t stay with me. Truth was, I wanted to party. I could never take just one weekend off of drinking to spend time with them.  I made my parents stay in a hotel and what’s worse, I acted as if I was doing everyone a favor by meeting them out for dinner.

It was a nightmare when my brothers came in town and all 4 of us went out to raise hell.  I was the leader and my brothers always followed me into a drug and alcohol induced weekend every time we got together.  My mom and dad hated it when we went out together!  I was an awful role model and certainly not acting like the ‘good-boy’ son my mom had raised. My addiction only cared about the party, and I bulldozed anyone who stood in my way of that, including my mom.

There was a time my mom came in town to make my favorite dinner because we had been missing each other for months. I stayed out from the night before till about 30 minutes before she showed up.  I was drugged out of my mind and hadn’t slept for 3 days.  As soon as my mom arrived, (she knew something wasn’t right) I showed her to the kitchen, the pots/pans and ingredients and then went right to bed.  She cooked alone for 3 hours hoping her meal would make me feel better.  I never woke up. I slept right through the night and missed her dinner. My addiction did not care about dinner with my mom!

The asshole icing on the cake was on May 31st, my mother’s birthday.  It was a beautiful Sunday, all of my family was having an early evening bbq for her and I didn’t show up.  What’s worse; I didn’t even call her that day to wish her a ‘happy birthday’.  I had been sleeping off a 3-day binge and was nowhere to be found.  She called me later that night to tell me I had missed her birthday, she was crying and very upset.  That was the low of the lows. I was so far gone into drug addiction and alcoholism.  I thought the missing birthday ‘glitch’ was just a temporary feeling. I convinced myself it wasn’t that big of a deal. I thought by saying sorry, all would be good.  Unfortunately, that was the one that really affected our relationship. Addiction was ruining my relationship with my mom.

I literally broke my mother’s heart daily when I was abusing drugs. I broke promises, I was so unreliable, there were hundreds of embarrassing moments, there were times my mom had begged me to stop, only to be made a fool over and over again by my actions.  Unfortunately, heartbreak by her oldest son had become the new normal in our relationship and my addiction did not care.

Unbeknownst to me, my mom was going to church every week to light a candle for me. She knew I was in trouble and could sense things were not going to end well.  She was asking for me to get help, asking for God to watch over me and get me to a place where I could start to  heal and live a clean life.

What’s so amazingly true and perfect about this story: God worked his magic the day I entered treatment.  I hit my limit: I had spent four straight days using and abusing and was rushed to the emergency room.  That next morning, my brothers showed up, they told me they had booked me a room at a residential treatment program and I would be there for the next 30 days.  My mom had not heard the news until later that evening when I called her.  She was actually at church that very morning saying a prayer, lighting a candle and begging God to help me.

While I skidded into rehab, my experience there was very positive.  I spent many days uncovering layers of myself, finding out who I was deep inside, and who I was without the drugs and alcohol. Still a momma’s boy and a grown ass man now with a long-list of amends to make to his mom.

Two weeks into my treatment program, I received a letter stamped from home and in my mom’s handwriting.  I opened it and there were 10 hand written pages, full of every heartbreaking moment that I had caused her because of my addiction.  It highlighted all of the shitty things I did (sort of like a fourth step for moms/Al-Anon if you will) Reading those things, in her words; while I was starting to get my clean mind back was so moving, so crushing and upsetting to me.  It broke me to relive all of those moments and to hear my mom’s heartache.  I was crushed. I had some work to do.

My family came to visit me over Easter Weekend.  After dinner, I asked my mom to go for a walk, just her and I.  We walked around this beautiful lake as the sun was setting and I told her something I had learned while in treatment.  My chaplain talked about Psalm 23, ‘The Lord is My Shepherd.’  He told us that when sheep would walk away from the herd over and over again, shepherds would have to break the back legs of the sheep to prevent them from continuing that and potentially getting killed by prey.  This taught sheep a valuable lesson to not act out and to stay safe inside the herd. (That’s why you see so many biblical images of the Shepherd with a sheep around His neck, nursing them back to health and safety)  My chaplain often asked me – do you feel like your back legs have been broken

I told my mom for the past few years, I was so sick that I didn’t realize the damage and heartbreak I was causing her.  I told her my back legs were broke and how sorry I was for everything I had put her through.  As I started to bring up each instance with her, she embraced me and told me she loved me and that we never have to go back to that. I told her I never wanted to either.  We were both crying and it felt so good to be back in my mom’s arms again, as the ‘good-boy’ she had always wanted.

I am 6 years clean and sober and my relationship with my mother has never been better. That insanely sick time in my life, the ups and downs (mostly downs) with her, has taught me the wonderful meaning of unconditional love.  It has taught me about forgiveness, it has taught me how to treat other people. I have learned so much from my mom and the way she treated me during my active addiction.  She is still the most amazing and wonderful woman and without her love and support, I could not have done this.  Sometimes we hurt the the most, the ones we love the most.  And the ones that love us the most always keep coming back hoping for a different day.  I’m so grateful my mom and I have a different day now!!

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About Chris:
Chris is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict with 6 years of sobriety.  He is very active in the recovery community and loves to spend time spreading the great message of recovery.  He created Sober Cards TM, to help people get sober and stay sober.  These came directly from his experience in treatment, where they told him, ‘Idle hands are the devil’s playground’ and recited many more sober slogans.  Thousands of decks have been sold and his hope is that everyone trying to get sober has access to them. Sober City USA was launched in 2015 to show the world that there is this awesome enthusiasm for recovery and an excitement for life on the other side of the drugs and alcohol.

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

The News No One Wants

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Wednesday afternoon, I learned that one of the kids my son used to hang out with (aka use drugs with) has died. He was 22, just a year younger than #SoberSon. I don’t have any of the details and do not know the young man’s parents, yet I feel very connected to them because we have been on parallel paths.

Less than two years ago, before sobriety and recovery, we feared our family might get that horrific news, the news no one wants. That’s just how fragile addiction rendered his life. Hope existed, but it was dwindling. We knew that such a tragedy was a distinct possibility, an unfortunate reality.

Because we knew it could happen – it happens all too often with our young addicts – it makes these lost lives all the more sobering for me. (And for another time, I’ll talk more about my commitment to overdose prevention and why families and friends need to have life-saving naloxone.)

This past fall, my son had asked it if would be OK to drive over to this kid’s house. Word had it the kid was leaving the next day for a treatment program in another state. They hadn’t really been in touch since my son’s recovery, but he wanted to wish him well and offer encouragement that treatment is a smart decision. The kid wasn’t home but my son was able to talk with the dad for a few minutes.

I remember all the hope that families feel when a loved one goes to treatment, and rightly so. Treatment is a positive step forward. It is a move away from addiction toward recovery. It just isn’t always a one-and-done experience as we learned with our son – it can take more than one go until there is a true readiness.

Again, I don’t know the specific circumstances or scenario with this particular kid. I just know that my heart goes out to the kid’s family and friends.

Later this evening, my son will be home from school and working out at the gym. I don’t know if he will have heard the news because he’s truly cut himself off from the old crowd. This is not the first of his friends to die, but it is certainly one too many.

I hug my son every day. I will most certainly be hugging him tonight. Hugs, not drugs. Right? It just seems like the right cliche for this post.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Facing Reality: How One Call Saved My Little Brother

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I will never forget the phone call. I was watching TV at my parents’ house, where I was living at the time after graduating from college earlier that year. It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving. My phone rang, and I saw my little brother’s best friend, Dan, show up on my phone’s caller ID. My brother had left the day before to go back to the University of Colorado, where he was in his first semester of his freshman year. Dan had been my brother’s best friend for almost 10 years, and I doubt anyone in the world knew my brother better. While Dan and I were friendly, someone I considered my friend too, it was rare for us to talk without my brother around, let alone call each other on the phone.

I answered the phone puzzled — wondering why Dan was calling me — asking the expected, “Hey, man. What’s up? How you doing?”

“I think your brother has a drug problem,” Dan said with a combination of confidence and disappointment. My brother had just been back for an entire week for Thanksgiving break, a time when most kids his age return home and reunite with their high school friends whom they have not seen since the summer before they left for school. “He was so barred-out (term for abusing Xanax) this entire week, we couldn’t even get him out of his bed to come hang out with everyone,” Dan said.

I knew for a long time that my brother’s drug use was extreme. His high school years were one big blur of drug use starting with smoking marijuana and including everything from cocaine, mushrooms, MDMA, booze, and I am sure everything in between that I never actually saw him use. Sure, my brother liked to have fun, but what high school kid did not? Who was I to say he had a drug problem? My brother did not have a drug problem; people with drug problems were dirty junkies who were incapable of doing normal, everyday things. That was not my brother, right?

For the next week, I thought about what Dan told me every day. I did not know how to tell my parents or if I even should tell my parents. I viewed rehab as the end. The end of my brother’s normal life, the end of the brother I knew. What if I told my parents this and he really did not have a drug problem? What if I told my parents and he ended up hating me because of it? What if I told my parents and they sent him off to rehab when he really just needed time to figure things out, like most college kids did?

Freshman year is hard, and it is a time of transition. I knew I had taken time to adjust and grow up a little bit when I was a freshman in college; maybe that was all my brother needed, too?

From there, I struggled with whether I should talk to my brother. Would he admit he had a problem if he did, or would he just tell me what I wanted to hear so badly — that he did not have a problem? Like a lot of high school kids, my brother would lie about where he was, who he was hanging out with, and what he was doing when he was out with his friends smoking weed, drinking, or going to concerts and doing molly or other drugs. Could I really trust what he told me was the truth if I did talk to him?

Questions like these swirled in my head as I battled my emotions and tried to come to terms with the most rational course of action to make sure my brother would be okay. He was always an incredibly social kid. He had a ton of friends, and the party usually started when he arrived. I knew he smoked weed, drank, occasionally took a harder drug like cocaine, but binging on Xanax? Popping pills to the point that he became a shell of who he was, to where he could not even interact with friends he had not seen in months? That was not my brother.

By Wednesday, I knew I had to tell my parents. I was terrified. I felt like it would have been easier to tell them I had a drug addiction than to tell them that I thought my brother did. Even though I knew I had to tell my parents, I could not muster the courage to do it until that Sunday night.

It was after our weekly Sunday night family dinner. My dad had the Sunday night NFL game on while my mom finished washing the dinner dishes. Walking down the stairs from my room to where my parents were in the family room felt like a slow walk to the electric chair. The weight of knowing what was happening to my brother was eating me alive. All week, an immovable wave of fear and anxiety that started at my core and tingled out to my fingertips and toes surrounded me like a knight’s suit of armor. The only way to shed the metal suit would be to break the news to my parents that their youngest son had a drug problem.

When I finally told my parents, they did not seem surprised; a part of them must have already known he had a problem. I told them about what Dan said about my brother using Xanax. I told them about the countless times I had seen him snort coke, take molly, and eat mushrooms in high school. I told them about how I struggled all week with whether or not I thought my brother had a drug addiction and that the only conclusion I could come to was that he did and that he needed help.

My mom flew out to Denver the next day to confront my brother about getting help. He admitted immediately to my mom that he was addicted to Xanax and was struggling with other drugs, too. He knew he needed help. Once he knew we were there for him and we were going to get him the help he needed, he never fought or denied it. He wanted to get help; he just never knew how to ask for it.

My brother entered an inpatient treatment center the next week. I would love to tell you that everything was smooth sailing after that but it was not. He stayed sober at first, but a couple months after his first stint in treatment, he relapsed into a cycle of severe drug abuse and hit rock bottom. While treatment was not immediately effective, it was the first step in his road to recovery.

He eventually did get the help he needed. I am thankful every day that Dan called me that Sunday after Thanksgiving. Without him I doubt I would have ever come to the conclusion that my brother needed help on my own. If I had, would it have been too late to help him? That is a question I am happy I never had to answer.

Today, my brother is back at the University of Colorado. He is excelling in the classroom and often receives the highest grades in his class. He has an adorable rescue dog named Ellie who goes with him everywhere. He has a great group of friends who are active outdoorsman; they often go snowboarding, hiking and mountain climbing. He has also been sober for more than a year and a half.

Trey Dyer is a writer for http://www.DrugRehab.com and an advocate for inpatient rehab treatment for individuals with substance use disorders. Trey is passionate about sharing his knowledge and tales about his own family’s struggle with drug addiction to help others overcome the challenges that face substance dependent individuals and their families.

 Contact Trey: tdyer@drugrehab.com

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

R & R – Rehab for the Holidays

Just like the holidays themselves, treatment at this time of year brings mixed feelings. Midwestern Mama recalls the emotional energy that surrounded her son’s treatment program a few years back.

Many of you know the frustration and devastation that a kid’s addiction brings. There is concern, offers for help, arguments, lying and stealing, manipulation, sleepless nights, worry, and more.

If only our loved one would go to treatment. If only they would stay at treatment. If only they would engage with the treatment program. If only they would embrace recovery. If only.

We hope with all our might that they will choose treatment. I know I did. It’s what my family wanted most for our son’s Christmas in 2013 (and 2012, and 2011, and 2010 …).

In 2013, my son realized it was time to go back to treatment – note, “go back,” as he’d been to several before. He realized that he couldn’t continue living with addiction and the consequences it was creating in his life.

He went through the process to get funding and find a program that met his needs; for example, he was opposed to 12-step or faith-based programs, and these tend to be the most prevalent ones available. During the couple of weeks that he worked with the county, he sofa surfed and used; however, we told him if he was working toward treatment and giving it good effort that he could stay at our house and most nights he did.

Finally, the first week of December, a bed opened for him but the center could not reach my son. He had given them my name and number as back up and I engaged in an all-out search to find my son and get that bed, which they could only hold until the next morning – less than 24 hours.

Miracles of miracles, he was down the street at a buddy’s house and had been out cold sleeping off his high from the day before. He was surprised that a bed had opened so quickly and was acting hesitant about taking it. He did not want to go there that night or the next morning for that matter. He did not want to miss the holidays. He was stalling.

Nooooooooo.

He did call them back. He did say he’d go in the morning. He did pack that night. He did ride there with me – in a Minnesota blizzard – the next morning. He did stay. He did not run away.

That night and for the next 30 nights, I slept well. The best I had slept in years. I experienced R&R, respite and relief. I knew he was safe, warm, cared for and was beginning, in greater earnest than ever before, his recovery.

Spoiler Alert, and I only share this because it’s true and part of the journey: He did complete the program and started after care, although, he relapsed. But it was a start. A real start. It was the foundation for what today is 16 months of sobriety and recovery with all the promise and potential of being long-term.

Yes, it was different to have my son at rehab over the holidays, but it was oh so wonderful in may ways. Rehab anytime of year is a gift, but for the holidays, it was far better than we ever hoped.

Here’s hoping your loved one finds the way to treatment and recovery this holiday season.

Midwestern Mama

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Blog: Drug & Alcohol Treatment for Young Adults

This is the third of a three-part series by @DrewHorowitz, a recovery coach and interventionist who specializes in working with young adults and their families to work through addiction, treatment and recovery. Thank you, Drew, for sharing your professional insights to help families confronting substance use.

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A young adult is a hybrid of an adolescent and an adult. I consider most young adults that I work with to be professional adolescents since they have not yet taken on the responsibilities of an adult and have been in graduate studies in adolescent behavior. The oppositional-defiant behavior coupled with the feeling that they are entitled to free room and board eventually causes parents to feel disrespected, resulting in anger. This cycle creates chaos between the young adult and parents, and the untreated addiction coupled with immaturity continues to dominate all parties involved.

A new study shows that nearly 7 million American’s aged 18-25 (more than one in five young adults) needed treatment for drug or alcohol use in the last year. The study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also shows that 95 percent of these young adults did not receive the help they needed at a treatment facility. These levels have remained fairly stable since 2002. In addition, 96 percent of the young adults needing help did not believe they needed the help. Even among the 4 percent who thought they needed treatment in the last year but did not receive it, less than on third made any attempt to get treatment.

Why is it so hard?

Deemed the most challenging age group to treat, the young adult population has flooded drug and alcohol treatment centers throughout the country. Many treatment centers have developed specific tracks, while others have devoted their entire program to this population.

Why? Because young adults do not easily fit into an adolescent group or an adult addiction group. Usually the young adult is the only 24-year old in a group of adults with the average age of 38. The young adult will quickly use this fact as a reason why an addiction program is not what they really need. This patient cannot relate to the adult stressors of childcare, marriage nor the pressure and responsibility of paying bills (which he has never experienced).

Further, this same population cannot identify with the adolescent group either. Adolescents face different stressors and challenges with sobriety when compared to the young adult. Part of this confusion stems from the young adult believing that they are grown men, mature and no longer need “babysitting,” which sometimes occurs in adolescent treatment programming.

For this reason, the combination of young adults with adolescents can be extremely counterproductive, causing patients to leave against medical advice or “checking out” for most of treatment.

How to Treat Young Adults with Addiction

Recognizing the unique needs of this population is imperative for successful recovery. Any addiction treatment program that treats this age group must have the experience, the ability and the interest to deal with this population.

The onset of chemical dependency in the adolescent or young adult stage of human development can result in arrested development preventing the sufferer from maturing into healthy adulthood. For this reason, many young adults arrive at treatment with many childish like tendencies.

For example, the young adult may become argumentative with his or her counselor, push the rules of the program and potentially get them removed from the program for breaking rules. It is common for addiction counselors to create behavioral plans, threaten to involve law enforcement and family, while confronting the young person on their acting out.

This is one of the greatest mistakes that a counselor can make. Confrontation generally makes the situation much worse. Young adults are naturally oppositional and respond poorly to demands and threats. Therefore, when counselors become agitated and frustrated with their client, it amplifies the situation.

The young adult is accustomed to being spoken down to and told that they are out of line or misbehaving. By re-enforcing this pattern, it essentially tells the patient that they are “bad” or “misunderstood”, which pushes them further away and leaving them to cope by using substances.

Changing Our Approach to Treatment for Young Adults

The solution lies in taking a more empathetic, compassionate and caring role to validate frustrations and provide support. Taking a client-centered position and changing the cycle will ultimately create greater outcomes.

The key: to not become part of the dangerous downward cycle that this population creates. By engaging in arguments it fuels the addiction and leads to poor outcomes and early discharges from treatment. However, when validated, recognized and heard, the young person is almost left speechless and in awe by the counselors attitude. It is this understanding and rapport that sets the young adult up for success.

In my experience, this population suffers tremendously from low self-esteem and self-worth. At the basis of their illness rests strong feelings of inadequacy and failure. It is these emotions that fuel the addiction and keeps the young person caught in a cycle of anger and helplessness. For that reason, the foundation of treatment must be built on trust, empathy, support and unconditional positive regard. Additionally, it is crucial that they play a strong role in their recovery. Asking them to assist in writing their treatment plans, allowing involvement in aftercare planning and validating frustrations and concerns goes a very long way with this group.

I recently asked one of my clients, “How can I help you in your recovery?” His response, “Just treat me like a person.” This young man has been through several rigorous treatment programs and all have failed him. The treatment center is not entirely at fault, however many have not set the stage for their recovery.

It is imperative that prior to treating young-adult clients that counselors must first build a strong alliance where the patient and his or her counselor can walk with them through their recovery as opposed to dictating their recovery.

About Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

Blogs I’d like to write, but haven’t yet written.

The more I write, the more I want to write – mostly before there is always more I want to share. This is certainly the case when it comes to Our Young Addicts. There is so much to talk about and so many topics that parents, young people in recovery, and addiction/treatment professionals want to read about.

As the back-to-school season moves forward, I have less and less time to write. Fall is always a busy time for my business (unrelated to Our Young Addicts, although I do have a few clients in the addiction space). In addition, I am an adjunct professor at a local university, so I’m in the classroom two nights a week plus grading my students’ papers. And, as every parent knows, the school year brings extra commitments – getting up earlier to get my 15-year-old off to school, encouraging good homework habits, carpooling to sports practice, and more.

My day is the same as yours. Twenty four hours. No more. No less.

Yet, I still want to give Our Young Addicts just as much energy, passion and content as the summer months. Some of that I put in play with our #SoberSchoolYear campaign with Tweets and Facebook posts running daily to offer tips and insights.

As well, I owe you all a good update on #SoberSon and his continued success with recovery as well as an honest account of some of the struggles that run parallel on this path. These real-time observations prove valuable no matter where your kid (of any age) may be on the spectrum of experimentation, use, addiction, treatment, relapse, and recovery.

On my list.

For now though, I’m just going to share a whole bunch of topics that I’d like to write about at some point. Let me know what you think. Tell me which ones are of greatest interest. I remain committed to one post per week about our family’s journey; one guest post per week from a parent, young person in recovery, or addiction professional; and one #TBT column – because there is so much wisdom in the early days of my son’s addiction and its impact on the family.

Here are “just a few” of the future blog posts that I may just write one day:

  • Even with “all the right things,” you kid may use … and may become an addict
    • Coming to terms with we didn’t cause this, can’t change this, can’t control this, can’t cure this … yet were supposed to do these “influential things” that still might not work, reconciling all this.
  • MWM’s “AA” is Appropriately Anonymous
  • The freedom of a fence
  • A short leash … advice to the tennis coach … oops
  • Check it out – act now
  • Check it out – testing
  • Create and orchestrate a community team
  • Be open to possibilities
  • Less rigid, 180 degrees
  • #NotMyKid – the most dangerous mindset
  • Still Curious – So much we still don’t know, might never know
  • The day I cleaned my son’s room
  • Then & Now
  • 24/7/365 – it’s the same allotment, every day, for all of us
  • Role Models – inspire others due to our vulnerable honesty, and this inspires others to keep on keeping on … Experience
  • My goal was to have no goal – when the mind was quieting down, the answers came to me … in part it inspired the writing and the formation of Our Young Addicts, find solutions in a place of peace
  • Beyond Been There And Done That – Here Now and Doing This – Real-time Experience
  • Takeaways for Parents:
    • Trust your Mom Radar
      • Check it out
      • Don’t be naïve
    • Create a team, a community
      • Variety of perspectives and experiences
      • It’s going to be a bit of a haul, need support from those who have been there and done that, and from those here and doing this
    • Share the conversation, which creates hope and hope becomes belief – experience, resources, hope
    • Quiet the mind and be open to the possibilities
    • The positive outcomes of this horrific journey in addition to son’s sobriety and recovery, are the relationships, the personal growth, the clarity of purpose… there is a gift in the journey of addiction
  • Dual diagnosis – are there different rules for support? For action? For expectations?
  • Don’t be rigid – recovery perceptions
  • Just as we had perceptions of addiction, we had perceptions of recovery
  • Trust each other
  • It’s OK for Mama to have some wine, if she doesn’t have a substance use condition
  • Diet Coke – addiction, it’s real

In one of my many English courses, I remember someone attributing this quote to Ernest Hemmingway, “I don’t like to write, I like having written.” This says a lot about the discipline of writing and the compulsion to edit. For this and many other reasons, I have never thought that I should edit content for Our Young Addicts – that it should come from the heart and brain to the page, just as it is.

There you have it, just as it is!

Thanks for reading and for your continued support and participation as part of the #OYACommunity.

Midwestern Mama

#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: The Blame Game by Nadine Herring


Parents, families and professionals - let's end "The Blame Game."
Parents, families and professionals – let’s end “The Blame Game.”

I have a confession to make: I watch Dr. Phil, pretty much on a daily basis. I know, I know…but I like to watch a good train wreck to wind down my day and this show never fails to disappoint.

While there have been some truly cringe worthy episodes that make you wonder why they would even put them on the air, there have also been some good episodes so things tend to balance out.

The Dr. Phil show likes to specialize in shows that deal with family dysfunction: whether that be from divorce, parent-child issues, or its favorite topic – addiction. Now let me start by saying that I think Dr. Phil’s heart is in the right place when he takes on these topics, but I don’t always agree with his methods especially when it comes to dealing with the family members of addicts.

A typical addiction episode of the Dr. Phil show usually involves the family member or friend of the addict reaching out to Dr. Phil for help in dealing with the addict. They usually have tried every option (so they say) and are reaching out to him as their last hope for their loved one. The family member(s) will usually come out first, tell their story and then the addict will be brought on stage to tell their story. Once both parties are on stage, it doesn’t tend to go well and lots of arguing and yelling ensue. Now Dr. Phil can step in and shut this down immediately and facilitate a calm, rationale conversation but that wouldn’t make for good television, so he tends to let them go at it for a while before he cuts to commercial.

Once back from commercial, Dr. Phil will talk with the addict to dig into the story a little deeper and try to find out how and why they got started using. More yelling and name calling is done, and Dr. Phil usually turns to the family member(s) and starts to go in on them, and the blame game begins.

As the sibling and spouse of former addicts, I take great offense to this and usually get so angry watching him insult, patronize, and downright shame the family, that I have to change the channel!

The Blame Game

I’m going to speak from my experience and tell you that my brother and sister’s addiction had NOTHING to do with how they were raised.

My three sisters and I, along with my brother were raised in a very loving, close, two-parent home and there was no dysfunction in our family.

Now my brother was the oldest, so I can’t speak to how his addiction started, but I did notice that he seemed really different to me once he got out of the army. My brother joined right after high school and was stationed overseas for a while in Asia, and I honestly think that’s where his drinking problem began. Though I was very young when he came back, I definitely noticed a change.

As for my sister, we are only 14 months apart and were extremely close, so I was there from the beginning of her addiction. I know exactly how her addiction started, and again it had nothing to do with her family life! My sister started hanging with some very shady friends who got her started with marijuana and it very quickly progressed to harder street drugs. She left home at a young age, but my parents did everything they could to help her, and I would even follow her around to try to make sure she was safe, but her friends and her addiction were more powerful than our love for her. For YEARS she would go in and out of rehabs, in and out of our lives and there was nothing we could do.

So when I see Dr. Phil jumping all over some of these families who have genuinely done everything they know to do and come to him for help and he blames them for their loved one’s addiction, it makes me upset and sad because my family has been there.

We’ve watched our family members sink deep into the abyss of addiction and tried everything we could to help them. We watched as our family was torn apart and relationships were destroyed. My parents watched their only son and I watched my brother who I idolized, slowly drink himself to death, and when he finally got sober, watched him die way too young from cirrhosis of the liver at the age of 49. I watched the pain, devastation and stress of my parents as they wondered where their youngest daughter was and if she was okay. We lived for years dreading a late night phone call because we just knew it would be the police calling to tell us that she was dead. Unless you have lived with and loved an addict, you will NEVER understand how this feels.

Fortunately for my sister and our family, her story has a happy ending and she has been clean for over 10 years now and we are so very proud of her and the strength it took for her to make it through her addiction alive; her story is truly amazing.

I know that my family is not to blame for the addictions of my brother and sister and while I commend Dr. Phil for his efforts in trying to help addicts, he is doing them no favors when he tries to play the blame game with their families.

Nadine Herring is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support to addiction specialists and social service organizations. I specialize in working with this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization.

Connect with me on LinkedInGoogle+TwitterPinterest, or my website

Many thanks, Nadine, for sharing this perspective with us. Let’s work together – parents, families and professionals to end the blame game. MWM

At Wits End with Your Teen’s Substance Use? The T.E.A.M. Approach is a Better Fit ThanTraditional Intervention for Young Adults

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Today’s guest blog post is by Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP, a Twin Cities-based substance use and mental health professional. Welcome to the #OYACommunity, and thank you for sharing part 2 of a 3-part series with our readers.

Recently I had a conversation with a mom from North Dakota, and truthfully, it’s a typical conversation I have with parents all over the country.

The mom asked, “Would you be able to come pick up my 22-year-old son and bring him to treatment in Minnesota?”

“Sure.” I replied. “I would be happy to help your son get the treatment he needs. What day are you thinking?”

Her reply: “Well that’s the thing, he doesn’t exactly want to go nor does he think he has a problem”

“Oooookay,” I said with an extended tone. “Well how exactly do you want this to happen?”

The parent went on to explain her utter exhaustion with her son’s addiction and reported that she and her husband were simply “done.” She wanted her son out ASAP and in a treatment center by the end of the week.

I asked the mother, “Have you tried to encourage your son to seek treatment, and if so what did he say?”

Her words: “I have told him over and over again that he has a serious drug problem and he is not the son we raised”.

Enough said, I understood.

The Traditional Approach to Intervention Doesn’t Work Well with Teens

In previous years, my common response entailed an immediate plan of action to quickly intervene and remove the young adult from the environment. The plan would have been simple, either he would come with me to Minnesota or exit the home and live independently (potentially with police involvement). Additionally, I would have placed the element of fear inside his head, by letting him believe that he either came with me or he positioned himself near death.

Using this traditional approach, I have conducted countless interventions nationwide. Repeatedly, I showed up at homes around the country and informed young adults that they had two choices: A. Go into treatment TODAY or B. live independently on the streets without the support of family or friends.

Addicted or not, almost 80% made the choice to reluctantly enter treatment. Leveraged into a corner, the young adult considers living independently on the streets, however, generally sees that treatment may be a better option.

That being said, it’s almost never a fairy-tale ending.

An extremely high percent of those admissions did not stay sober or even remain in treatment.

Families would call me a few weeks later and ask for help – in complete despair with the rebellious nature of their son or daughter.

A Realization in the Making

Continually, I was saddened by what I was seeing and it personally effected me. I realized that I was not actually providing a beneficial service to families as THEY, the families, were essentially dictating the course of action.

I posed the question to myself, “Shouldn’t it be I, the professional, to provide the family with the best option to support their son or daughter?” I pondered on that thought and knew that there must be a better way to do this!

Launching a New, Improved Approach to Helping Young Adults with Addiction

In August 2014, when I founded Drew Horowitz & Associates, I decided that my method of intervention would change. My objective would be to incorporate a strength-based, empowering approach to intervention.

The new approach is called the “Teen Environmental Advancement Model” (T.E.A.M) and it’s designed to help teenagers and young adults seek treatment for their existing substance use disorder.

It does not use leverage or force to move them into a recovery setting. Instead, this model works to educate people on themselves, identify values and aspirations, draw discrepancy between existing behavior and goals and learn about steps that best position them to be successful in life.

In my professional opinion, it made much more sense to “meet the client where they are at” and guide them through a process to begin understanding the detriment of their behavior. Not only does this model help the individual make their own decision to enter treatment, but also it increases the odds of long-term sobriety.

T.E.A.M. Work (Teen Environmental Advancement Model) 

Let me share the approach with you in with the counselor applies empathy, genuineness, self-disclosure and compassion and in which we continually work to strengthen rapport and alliance with the young person.

  • Preparation: This consists of the counselor gathering information from family and friends regarding the condition of the identified young person. This process helps the counselor come to understand the person of concern.
  • Introducing the idea: The counselor provides a suggested script for families to use when they introduce their loved one with the idea of meeting a counselor. The counselor then coaches parents and other family members on how to answer the person’s questions and address their objections, thereafter helping families overcome those barriers and create a segue for the counselor to meet with the person.
  • Meeting the Young Person: Next, we schedule a first meeting between the person of concern and the counselor. The counselor begins building rapport and establishing trust, taking an empathetic and person-centered approach that differentiates between the people being “sick” versus “bad.”
  • Building Discrepancy: At this point, the counselor meets with the person of concern to help identify goals, aspirations and personal values, continuing throughout to build rapport and validate the person’s thoughts, feelings and frustrations. While encouraging the person to attain their vision, the counselor begins the process of building discrepancy between the ways the person is living versus their values. The counselor methodically works to help the person see that their current behavior isn’t allowing them to be the person they want to be. In most cases, the person of concern starts to become self-aware of their destructive behaviors and agrees with some need for change.
  • Making a Recommendation: Now the counselor recommends a course of action. This involves remaining non-confrontational and compassionate while informing the person that the next step in moving forward and accomplishing their goals entails entering a treatment program of some type. Opposition and frustration are typical responses, to which the counselor reminds the person that by seeking treatment they best position themselves to be successful in life and attain goals. However, the person is never forced into treatment, but instead is encouraged to keep an open mind about the process. It is not uncommon for the person to start at a lower level of care and work up to an in-patient setting.
  • Entering Treatment: The counselor arranges transport to the treatment facility and, in the interim, prepares the person for their treatment experience, investing considerable time in articulating to the person how much courage and strength they’re demonstrating by taking this life-changing step.
  • Moving Forward: At this point, the person of concern is under the care of the treatment provider and it’s critical that they remain on track. Toward that end, the counselor’s role changes to that of a clinical case manager for the person and a family educator for their loved ones. Ideally, the counselor visits the person in treatment weekly or biweekly, depending on the facility’s location.
  • Providing After Care: As primary treatment concludes, the person of concern receives a recommendation for continuing care. The counselor supports the treatment program’s recommendation and encourages the person to follow through, applying intervention tactics and working with the family as needed to ensure that they take the appropriate aftercare steps.
  • Turning it Over: The counselor’s involvement isn’t intended to be long-term. The hope is, after a period of time, the person of concern will no longer be a concern. The counselor defers to the recovery community and encourages the person to lean on their new found community—their sponsor and peers—for ongoing support. That said, the counselor never declines a phone call or meeting request.

Using the T.E.A.M. model, I have seen a massive increase in positive outcomes among young adults: Pleasant goodbyes from home, motivation in treatment to get healthy, abiding by aftercare recommendations and active participation in the recovery process.

In order to be effective with today’s vulnerable young adult population, we must promote autonomy, strength and mutuality. I now leave interventions with a sense of inner peace and hopefulness that I had never experienced in the past. More importantly, our young loved ones and their families are finding a similar inner peace and hopefulness, too.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP
Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP
Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

©2015 Our Young Addicts         All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: A Mom Stops Enabling and Starts Supporting Her Daughter in Recovery from Meth Addiction

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One of the most rewarding aspects of the #OYACommunity is connecting with other parents who are on the addiction and recovery path with their children. Together, we share experiences with the hopes that it helps other families facing a similar situation.

Today’s guest blogger is the Jennifer Jinks Yates, the mom of a young woman who is overcoming Methamphetamine addiction. She writes about recognizing the signs, to getting her daughter into treatment and now supporting her in early recovery. We wish Jennifer and her daughter Abby the best as their journey continues. Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JYTS68

I realized very quickly I had no idea who my child was. About a year ago I knew something was going on; the violent outbursts, the weight loss, hallucinations.

Of course, she looked at me right in the eyes and lied; “I swear I’m not on drugs.” I believed her.

I even took her to a gastroenterologist because of her vomiting and diarrhea episodes. I later learned she was actually just what they call “dope sick.”

One night last fall she called me in the middle of the night hysterically crying. “He beat me up bad, mom. Come get me.” I met her at a gas station, dried blood on her face and windshield busted out.

I asked again, “…are you on drugs?” “Yes, mom. Yes!” she yelled. I’d love to say I was in shock but I already knew in my heart.

She told me she had been using drugs, mainly methamphetamine, for over years. Smoking it, snorting it, and within the last year, injecting it. I look back and that is when my instincts kicked in. Prior to that, I truly had no idea.

Back to the night I met her at the gas station, how broken and tiny she looked in her car. I brought her home and called her father.

We had her in treatment within 72 hours. I felt peace for the first time in a while.

I drove her to the treatment center three hours from home. Leaving her there was the hardest thing I’ve done since burying my mother at the age of twenty-five. I cried the whole way home. I cried almost every day for a while, uncontrollably at times.

Thinking back and wondering, “How did I not know? Did I ever really know her at all?”

Two weeks in she convinced me she learned her lesson and was ready to come home. I reluctantly went and got her.

I was the queen of enabling at that time.

Three days in and she was at it again. Her abusive boyfriend brought drugs to my home while I was working two jobs. I previously told her if she relapsed she could not live in my house. Two weeks before Christmas she moved out. I prayed and prayed for her. A few weeks later she asked me to come get her again. I told her I would only if she would agree to return to treatment, and she did. That was early January, 2015.

Immediately she was a different person. She stayed in rehab until the staff said she was ready for sober living. She will graduate from sober living in a few weeks. While I am nervous about her returning home, I have to give her a chance. She has done all she has been asked to do.

I have had several people who knew her the first rehab visit say she is a totally different young lady. Our battle is far from over. She feels like sober living is a bubble protecting her from the scary real world.

What I got out of all this was strength I never knew I had. The enabling stopped after I took her to rehab the second time.

It is unimaginably difficult and breaks your heart, but in the end it will save their lives.

Enabling kills, it is that simple. By doing drugs these addicts are killing themselves anyway. Enabling helps that process.

Addicts do not have a soul. They are empty shells doing whatever it takes to get the next high. Once they are so deep into addiction, they are no longer in control. Enabling the addict will get you nowhere. They aren’t themselves.

Letting the addict to hit rock bottom quickly makes them see they have no other option but to seek treatment.

I am thoroughly enjoying getting to know my daughter. She has my eyes and sense of humor. She is very well liked where she is. She is excelling in her job, earning employee of the month for the last three months. I have been so blessed by this experience. She could have easily overdosed and died. I also would like to mention the show “Intervention” helped me become a better parent. I learned a lot from other parents going through the same thing as well. I am very appreciative and honored to be asked to write and share my experiences.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your wisdom with us. We are glad to have you as part of the #OYACommunity.

©2015 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved