How Interactions at School can Lead to Teen Addiction

Pay attention to your kid’s school day. It may offer clues to mindset and the unfortunate possibility of substance use. MWM

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Imagine that you are 16 years old and you’re in science class. The class is divided into groups, each focused on a science project. Suddenly a bully in your class throws a spitball at you. It hits you in the back of the neck and it hurts. Your group members see it and they laugh.

Or imagine being in the hallway talking to your girlfriend and you see her make eye contact with another guy.  Or you might imagine that you are in PE class and you are the last one chosen to be on one of the two teams. Your embarrassment grows as everyone else is picked but you.

The point is that all these scenarios trigger feelings. Perhaps you’ve been in a similar situation, and as a result, you’ve felt anger, disappointment, disrespected, embarrassment, or shame. These are difficult feelings for someone to experience, let alone a teen who may not yet have the maturity to hold such strong feelings. To make matters worse, if a teen is experiencing difficulty at home (alcoholic parent, domestic violence, parental divorce, abusive parent, etc.) then the interactions at school may be making already existing feelings worse.

Yet, even without challenging situations at home, a teen can find it hard to be at school. In general, teens tend to experience the following:

  • Fear of rejection
  • Not wanting to be made fun of
  • Not wanting to lose a friend
  • Not wanting to hurt someone’s feelings
  • The desire to appear grown up
  • The desire to appear in control
  • Not having a clear picture of other’s desire
  • Not understanding how to avoid or handle a situation
  • Not knowing how to say no

When a teen feels emotionally uncomfortable and especially if they feel overwhelmed by their feelings, they may be at risk to saying yes to drugs or alcohol. They may give in more easily to peer pressure, or they may even seek out drugs in order to feel better.

Parents and caregivers should keep in mind that strong emotional reactions can interfere with a teen’s ability to concentrate, focus, and use intellect. Logic and reason compared to emotional distress utilize two different parts of the brain. This is another reason teen’s may reach for drugs and alcohol – to help them do better in school if their emotional state continues to interfere with their ability to think clearly. As you might expect, the more that teens choose to use drugs and alcohol, the more they become vulnerable to addiction.

Typical reasons why a teen or young adult may be drawn to drugs include:

  • peer pressure
  • access to substances (even in the school environment)
  • inability to say no
  • inability to manage strong feelings
  • to feel accepted
  • experiment
  • manage the symptoms of a mental illness
  • to do better academically
  • to feel better

Teens spend a large amount of their time at school. The interactions they have with peers, teachers, principals, counselors, and coaches often influence how a teen feels about themselves, particularly because adolescence is a time when teens are so sensitive about who they are and how they fit in. If a teen frequently feels uncomfortable about themselves, they may choose to regularly use drugs or alcohol to feel better.

Unfortunately, the use of substances is often a downward spiral. As a teen continues to use drugs, the more a dependency on them grows. And the stronger the dependency, the harder it will be for a teen to function in school, in relationships, or at work.

If you are a parent or caregiver, consider the following suggestions to support your teen’s emotional stability, and ultimately, the ability to say no to drugs:

  1. Talk to your teen. Let them know you care and that you’re there to provide support. Let them know you’re interested in who they are and what they enjoy. Get to know your teen so that you feel you’re in touch with their life.
  2. Let your teen know you don’t approve of drug or alcohol use. Teens who know their parents disapprove of drug use are less likely to use. When teens get the message that their parents do not care or that their parents approve of their drug use, teens will often experiment and continue to use substances.
  3. Teach your teen how to have fun without substances. One of the biggest influences of substance use among teens is the idea that getting drunk or high creates a fun experience that they otherwise couldn’t have. If a teen knows that there are other exciting experiences available without the use of substances, they are more likely to say no.

These are a few suggestions for keeping your teen away from substances, even when interactions at school become challenging. However, if you find that your teen is experiencing great difficulty, don’t hesitate to seek the support of a mental health professional.

About Guest Blogger: Dr. Jeff Nalin, Psy.D.

jeff-nalin-headshotDr. Nalin is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY17766), a Certified Chemical Dependency Intervention Specialist and a Certified Youth Residential Treatment Administrator. Dr. Nalin is the Founder and Clinical Director of Paradigm Malibu and Paradigm San Francisco Adolescent Treatment Centers. He has been a respected leader in the field of emotional health, behavioral health and teen drug treatment for more than 15 years. During that time, Dr. Nalin has been responsible for the direct care of young people at multiple institutions of learning including; The Los Angeles Unified School District, the University of California at San Diego, Santa Monica College, and Pacific University. He was instrumental in the development of the treatment component of Los Angeles County’s first Juvenile Drug Court, which now serves as a national model.

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

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From College Drop-Out to Graduate: The Gift of Collegiate Recovery Communities

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When your kid is using drugs, it may seem like sobriety – let alone college -is impossible. Today’s guest blogger, Teddy Rybka is proof that it’s possible. He’s a young person in long-term recovery and the program director of a popular, growing collegiate recovery community. Enjoy his post. MWM.

I was introduced to recovery at a young age, 18 years old to be exact. I had been an active user since 15 and the summer after high school graduation I decided to reach out for help. Two days later I found myself in inpatient treatment. I immediately regretted fessing up to my parents that I was chemically addicted as it meant I had to miss my first semester of college. What a bummer. I was all set to study business management and play upright bass for the college’s jazz ensemble, and here I was in a facility with other young junkies.

After inpatient treatment and a subsequent outpatient program, I found myself on a college campus. I was so excited about school. Finally, no more living at home with my nagging parents! I remember vividly standing outside my residence hall after my parents dropped me off and screaming at the top of my lungs, FREEDOM!

I was serious about staying clean and sober.

Well, sort of. The clean part, yes, but not the sober part. I could admit drugs were a problem, but I had a hard time grasping being powerless over the alcohol bit. How could I really be an alcoholic? I wasn’t even legal to drink nor had I ever had a drink in a bar. I figured I could control my alcohol use on my own and drink socially. How hard could it be? Little did I know the effort I needed to put into recovery, the support needed, and how recovery was an all or nothing deal. Within a week I started drinking almost every day again and a week after that I was back on my drug of choice. It was so sudden. Within a month of “partying” (in my case isolated drinking and drugging), I knew I needed to give it all up in order to survive in college.

I tried to stay clean AND sober. I realized that drinking led to my drug use and once I picked up that drink there was no telling when I would stop. I sought out help. However, the university I was attending had no support for students in recovery. The counseling support didn’t have any resources besides area AA meetings filled with old people I couldn’t relate to. I tried outpatient treatment again and also hooked up with a therapist who ended up telling my parents that I was a lost cause because of my continuous relapses and excuses based on endless lies.

I managed to complete 3 semesters of college. I got passing grades, but I was a wreck physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I knew I couldn’t go on so I dropped out, and for three years I bounced in and out of treatment centers. I put my parents through the merry-go-round of deceit, lost a lot of friends, and destroyed my self-esteem and motivation.

I never thought college would be possible.

Despite my out-of-control behavior I knew deep down inside that I was better than this; a testament to my parents and their unconditional love and support. A college degree was my dream, but my previous attempt had traumatized me. I thought the temptations around me would be too strong to overcome. How could I find friends who were also clean and sober? How could I have fun? These thoughts almost destroyed any hope of becoming a college graduate.

While at an inpatient treatment center in Minnesota in the fall of 2009, I learned about Augsburg College’s collegiate recovery community called StepUP from a couple of students who came in to share their testimony. A comprehensive program on campus where students in recovery can receive an education while enjoying college life clean and sober?! I was so overwhelmed with hope that I knew right then and there that was where I needed to go to obtain my college degree.

I was sent to California after treatment for after-care which was a great experience. My sober living roommate was a celebrity, we went to meetings in Hollywood, and for the first time I really started to have fun in recovery. Everything was going great until my best friend, and using buddy, was sent to the same place where I was for aftercare. Bad idea.

Within a week of being together we had relapsed and were kicked out of our sober living home. His parents took him back home, but mine would not. To this day my parents say this was the hardest thing they have ever had to do; to stop enabling me and let me go 2,000 miles away from home. I found myself with three options: homeless shelter, the Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC), or suicide. I chose the Salvation ARC, but soon after getting admitted I contemplated suicide. Here I was, going through withdrawal, the youngest in a facility of 110 men – the majority facing 10+ years of prison time, and stuck working 9 hours a day in a rat-infested warehouse.

That was my rock bottom; but instead of jumping to my death I got on my knees and prayed. I had an overwhelming sense of relief and calmness come over me. I had a spiritual awakening, surrendered to my disease, and have been clean and sober ever since.

I ended up hand writing my application while in the Salvation Army and was accepted to Augsburg College and the StepUP Program. I had never stepped foot on campus, but I knew that’s where I needed to go. I needed 6 months of sobriety so I really immersed myself into my recovery. I went to 4 support group meetings a week, and worked the 12 steps with a sponsor. I really had a goal which made it easier getting through the initial few months of sobriety. I went back to school in the fall of 2010 and immediately hit the ground running.

People in recovery are the most perseverant people in this world.

I am a testament that if you put just 50% of the energy you put into getting your drink or drug into something healthy and positive you can achieve anything. For example, I decided I wanted to get into shape and play the sport I love most again, a sport taken away from me from my addiction. I accomplished that and played baseball collegiately. I wanted to take on a leadership role and become a Residence Assistant and mentor for a group of students in recovery. I got the position and thrived. I wanted to graduate magna cum laude and I needed to get straight A’s my senior year. Success.

Before graduating with my degree in Marketing, I heard that St. Cloud State University was starting a collegiate recovery community and needed a graduate student with residential life experience helping students in recovery. What an opportunity! I could use my experience mentoring students in recovery while the university paid for my master’s degree. I got the position. Little did I know those would be the 3 best years of my life.

To be continued…

About our Guest Blogger:

Thaddeus “Teddy” Rybka has been a person in long-term recovery since February 2, 2010. Hailing from the Chicagoland suburbs, he has lived in Minnesota now for six years. He currently is the Program Coordinator for the Recovery Community at St. Cloud State University. In his free time, Thaddeus enjoys fishing, listening to music, exercising, and spreading the message that recovery works.

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

What it Was Like Then, and What It’s Like Now

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Today’s guest blogger, Benny Emerling, got sober at 19. It’s valuable for parents and professionals to have this perspective in mind when working with young people. MWM

As a young kid I always felt like everyone around me was given a golden textbook on life. Mine must have gotten lost in the mail. I was different, but not an outcast, in fact. quite the opposite. I had many friends, a loving family and a decently smart head on my shoulders. However, my idea of fun was different from most of my peers. Misbehaving, stealing and bullying were some of my favorite activities. I was always a happy jokester and had a smile on my face the majority of the time.

Having three older sisters and a younger brother, it was easy to slip through the cracks and get away with murder. In middle school, my behavior got worse and worse. I grew up in a primarily Jewish area, so when I was in seventh grade every weekend we had a bar or bat mitzvah party to go to. Virtually, every weekend there was a different elaborate party to go to. After a couple, I noticed the adults at the parties drinking. Curiosity grew inside me, it looked awesome. It was not long before I tried drinking.

I was 13, one of my friends at the time made me a delicious alcoholic beverage. By delicious, I mean repulsive, it was a combination of anything he could grab off the adult tables. This included wine, beer, a shot and a mix drink. It was the most disgusting beverage I had ever drank but at the same time the best. I felt the buzz of alcohol for the first time in my life and I was instantly ready for more.

Drinking at these parties became the norm for me and a couple of friends. Weirdly enough, none of us ever got caught. Then the summer hit, growing up every year I went to sleep away camp in Northern Michigan. And this year at summer camp was monumental, one of my cabin mates brought weed to camp with him and I smoke it for the first time. Drinking was a blast, but weed was a different type of fun. I finally found the missing piece to my life, and it was drugs. After my first experience getting high, I never wanted to be sober.

I became a huge pothead by ninth grade. I had drug hookups because my sister was older, and I was friends with kids who sold pot, among other drugs. Smoking weed became an everyday habit before school, at lunch, sometimes between classes, and always after school. Weed took over my life. I quit all after school activities I once did because it got in the way of me smoking weed.

Smoking weed is an expensive habit, so how could I afford it? I stole, manipulated, worked little jobs and sold drugs.

My first job was at an elite men’s fashion store that sold thousand dollar suits and top of the line shoes. I couldn’t stop smoke weed and I dabbled a little with taking prescription pills. I didn’t want to get fired, especially because of speculation about me being high at work was on the rise. I came up with what I thought was a brilliant lie: I told my boss who knew my stepmom that I was allergic to wool and that was why my eyes were constantly bloodshot.

I didn’t last long at this job, to say the least. I picked up a caddying job that summer, but no money compared to selling pills. So after a couple of months I made my money exclusively selling prescription pills and little amounts of weed. My supplier? My family. Members of family were prescribed prescription pills for medical reasons. I looked at these pills as dollar signs. My family gained suspicion. They knew I didn’t have a job, but they also knew I had a lot of money. Oh yeah, and all of the pills in the house were missing.

It didn’t take long for my parents to catch me red-handed. I was forced to take my first drug test, which  I failed miserably.

It was then my parents started looking up local rehabilitation centers. When I was 16, I was put into my first outpatient treatment center. I was told I had to stay sober and there would be drug tests once a week. I tried to stay clean for about a month and decided it wasn’t for me.

My high school career could be summed up pretty easily, I got high and partied, then ended up in outpatient treatment. Maintained decent grades and did what I wanted, when I wanted—I thought it was  the greatest time of my life. However, I knew the best years were still to come…college.

I chose to go to the biggest party college I got accepted to. The first couple of weeks were exactly how I wanted them to be. Huge parties every day, drugs whenever I wanted, and unlimited freedom to do whatever I wanted, without any consequences.Or so I thought…

The fun lasted about two months then I hit what most people would consider a bottom. I didn’t sleep, eat, go to class, and barely left my dorm room for five consecutive days. I ended up going insane from all of the Adderall I took, and it wasn’t long before I overdosed and ended up in the psych-ward.

By this time I hadn’t talked to my families in over a month, and everyone assumed I was either dead or in jail. My close friends stopped calling me because I betrayed all of them in one way or another and I was basically alone, miserable and physically and mentally broken.

I remember the exact moment when I realized I needed help and that I needed to get sober.

I was sitting in the psych-ward, I hadn’t slept for two days straight, and then I looked in the mirror. I was 40 pounds underweight, my eyes were sunk into my face and my body was bruised up from trying escape the hospital. At that very moment, I made the decision to get sober.

What’s It Like Now?

This was over six years ago. I was 19 when I admitted myself into treatment. I thought my rehab stay was only going to be three months, but I ended up needing a nine month stay. Rehab was great because I learned how to be a human again. I learned how to maintain relationships, grocery shop and take care of myself. I was taken to AA meetings and I actually learned from them and received hope from them.

I finally started feeling good for the first time in over six years.

After my rehab stay I moved back home. My mom was very skeptical of me living in the house because my teenage years were a disaster. I assured her that no matter what, I will not use, steal or lie to her. She slowly began to trust me again, which I never thought  possible. I started paying back the people I owed money to,  and I kept up with AA meetings. It didn’t take long before I found a friend group,  all young, sober adults.

I realized the more meetings I went to, the more I hung out with my sober friends and the more time I spent helping others, the less I obsessed about myself or getting high. It was an incredible realization, for over five years, every waking moment I thought about my next fix and how I was going to achieve it. But after I came to terms with the fact that I will never be able to use like a normal person, my life was shot into what I call the fourth-dimension.

I got sober when I was 19, I am currently 25 years-old and couldn’t be in a better place.

The disease of addiction took me to the darkest world imaginable, but at the same time blessed me with an amazing one at the same time. Suffering from addiction has made me a better person. I wake up every day knowing that as long as I stay sober, I can accomplish anything.

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.

 

Teens Speak Their Truth in New Online Pilot of Drug and Alcohol Prevention Program

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What’s something you don’t usually tell people about yourself?

What’s more important, money or happiness?

What’s the most fun you’ve ever had, without using drugs or alcohol?

There’s more—the homework assignment:

Schedule a walk with your parents or guardians and tell them three things you like about them.

Perform one good deed, even if no one notices. What was your good deed?  How did it make you feel?

Welcome to the novel approach of Gobi. It’s a new online drug and alcohol prevention program that we were inspired to develop because so many parents found their children using and couldn’t find a useful resource. Teaming up with academic specialists in addiction, education experts at sober schools and teens; we created Gobi.

What Kids Are Saying

To test the online concept and willingness of teens to engage, our team conducted a pilot evaluation for several months in 2015-2016.

The teens in the pilot provided insights about the program that is both revealing and empowering.

  • 50% reported they are around drugs and alcohol 1 to 3 times a week and that their motivation to use is to relax or deal with stress, fewer than 10% self-report using 3-7 times a week.
  • Peer pressure affects only a small percentage of respondents’ using behavior, yet approximately 70% of respondents reported they did things for another’s approval they did not want to, including “a mean prank,” “sleep at a boy’s house,” “smoke weed,” “drink whiskey.”
  • The majority of teens—approximately 80%–trust their friends—but some cautiously so. “Only one person. I’ve tried trusting more, but then they backstab you.” “Yes. But I’m a very closed off person, so they don’t know EVERYTHING. Cause you never know what could happen.” And “yes, because they don’t use.”
  • About 80 percent of respondents said happiness is more important than money. Their reasons: “money is something that comes and goes and not being happy is a waste of life.” “Because it’s the only thing money can’t buy.” Those who chose money say, “Money brings stability and without stability you can’t be happy.” “Everything depends on money.”
  • Most reported meeting a weekly goal they set—such as keeping a room clean, doing homework, helping parents with housework—and described this accomplishment as, “felt good, and it helped my relationship with my family,” “felt stronger mentally and physically because I did not think I could do it,” and “happy when we didn’t fight as much.” Those who missed making their goals described the feeling as “Disappointed,” “I feel dumb that I missed it,” and “Unsatisfied. Disappointed.”

By the end of the program, most teens said that they were now thinking differently about their using and had either stopped or significantly cut back on their drinking, as one teen said “because it’s a matter of my life.”  Both parents and teens reported that the walks had been very helpful in getting communication going again. Post-program survey comments attest to this, noting feeling “less stressed, more connected with my mom”, “My relationship with my family wasn’t as good as it is now, because I have been given tools to help communicate with my parents better.”

We are encouraged by these early results. They show teens are not only willing to change—but looking to change. They want help in doing so, and they find the online/mobile phone platform convenient, familiar, easy to use, and helpful. They trust it.

Most impressive to us was the fact that a great deal of honesty came through in the responses—and that’s key. As we know so well, trust and honesty are the foundation for getting teens and parents connected, and for getting right with the world. And there’s no better feeling than that.

About the Author:

Judson (Kim) Bemis is a Minneapolis entrepreneur, recovery advocate, and gratefully sober husband and parent for 28 years.  More information on Gobi can be found at gobi.support.

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.

 

From Rock Bottom to Recovery – A Young Woman’s Story

Our guest blogger this week is Maddie, a remarkably smart young woman in recovery. Through Maddie’s story, parents and licensed professionals might better understand youth substance use – and more importantly, recognize that it is entirely possible to progress from rock bottom to recovery and why family support is key to that. I have known Maddie and her family for many years and am so pleased to share her story with the OYA Community. Thank you, Maddie, for courageously writing this week’s guest post. MWM

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On April 20th, 2012, I hit another bottom. It wasn’t the first bottom I had hit and it wouldn’t be the last.

I had reached the ‘jumping off place’ where I couldn’t live with alcohol and drugs, but I couldn’t live without it. Sometimes, it surprises me that I couldn’t see my addiction sooner, but the compulsions and denial of addiction were incredibly strong.

My addiction escalated slowly enough to be inconspicuous to those around me for a time, but quickly enough for me to hit several serious bottoms before I graduated from college. By the time I turned 22, I was on a consistent, daily rotation between marijuana, Adderall, Klonopin, and alcohol.

Occasionally, I would use cocaine or other drugs I deemed ‘recreational,’ but by the end of my addiction there was nothing ‘recreational’ about my drug use.

In the beginning, I would have considered myself a ‘binge drinker.’ I would only smoke pot, experiment with pills, and drink copious amounts of alcohol on weekends. By 15, cocaine had became an integral part of my problem. I remember ducking in the back of my mother’s BMW X3 as my sister and her boyfriend drove through Cabrini Green and the other Chicago ghettos bathed in blue lights from constant surveillance to pick up cocaine from some low-level drug dealer. I was afraid of getting shot.

This began the constant cycle of tearing down my life and building it back up, ad-nauseum. While I began experiencing the consequences of my addiction immediately, I was unaware of them until my illness had destroyed everything worthwhile in my life: my relationship with my friends and family, my self-worth, my physical safety, my emotional stability, my independence, my sense of humor, my integrity, and the list goes on.

My emotional stability was the first to go.

In November of 2004, I had my first major suicide attempt at age 15. I swallowed an entire bottle of bulk Tylenol P.M. a few days before Thanksgiving. I would have died that night if my sister hadn’t heard me stumbling around upstairs trying to make it to the toilet – dizzy from all the sleep aid. My parents took me to the hospital down the street. In the waiting room with my mom, I had not yet lost consciousness, but I could barely keep my head up.

Once admitted, they tested me for drugs and pregnancy, even though I was not yet sexually active and I had barely kissed a boy. They found cocaine in my system and deep cuts on my left forearm that I had made with a dull pair of scissors and occasionally one of my mother’s gourmet cooking knives.The doctors gave me an IV and forced me to drink charcoal. I slept for over 24 hours and when I woke up, my mom was in the corner sobbing. It’s hard for me to think about the pain I caused her that night and for many nights to come during my active addiction.

I spent most of junior and senior year grounded, which was great for me. I was able to study and take care of myself, get good grades, and find friends outside of the party scene. I spent a lot of time with my parents and their friends during this time; we would go to Steppenwolf or out to dinner. My mom and I would work out together like fiends. Things got better. Without alcohol and drugs, I was able to put my life back together for brief periods of time. Inevitably, I would drink and use again; everything would begin to fall apart again.

To self-medicate during my dry periods,  I started smoking pot. When I smoked, I wasn’t blacking out and falling face first on our stoop or throwing up in the elevator shaft or getting in random cars or going near Cabrini Green to pick up drugs. I was sleeping, reading, watching movies, and studying. It took away that persistent and aching longing I always felt (and sometimes still feel).

When I was accepted to a prestigious liberal arts college in Southern California, I found friends who drank and used just like I did. Often, we went through two or three handles a night between five of us 130-pound girls with the aid of Adderall and cocaine. We were the blackout crew: high all day and incredibly smart. During my freshman year, I went out 6-7 days a week to party and my health suffered. I had Bronchitis over 3 times that year.

In the spring of my Junior year, I was sexually assaulted. While I had been struggling with my depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts for some time, I had never had symptoms this severe. Once I started crying, I would beat myself with my fists or a hammer until I could get myself to stop – often an hour later. I withdrew from all of my friendships and started isolating. I began blaming my friends and family for being unable to save me from myself. Looking back, this was the point where my addiction stopped being a choice: I could either use or kill myself.

Everything after that was a blur. I would have periods of okay-ness (not happiness) where I could get my work done, take care of myself, and was moving forward. Then, about every 3 months everything would come crashing down again and it felt like I had to start completely over.

I remember throughout college I would keep a post-it note on my mirror that said “no smoking before 4 p.m.” Eventually, I crossed out the 4 and wrote 2. I never was able to make it. I remember I would leave my drugs at home while I was studying in the library. About 30 minutes into studying, I would have to drive home – the anxiety so overwhelming I felt like my skin was crawling.

During the spring of my senior year, I was trying desperately to graduate. My mom flew out three or four times that semester to help me pick up the pieces of my disintegrating life and to help me finish my Economics degree. On April 20th, my senior thesis was due and I couldn’t turn it in. I remember people coming to my house to celebrate 420 and sobbing in my room. I kept taking Klonopin to soothe my anxiety, but it stopped working so I kept taking more.

I don’t remember this, but  I called my sister that night and told her I was suicidal. I don’t remember this, but she showed up later that day to find a bottle of Klonopin spilled all over the floor. She panicked and called my mom, who showed up the following day. My roommates found out I was suicidal and kicked me out of the house because they were scared about what I might do. While I worked on finishing the last requirements of my degree, my mom cleaned the bile, piss, shit, and blood of the walls of my room so I could move out. Through sheer luck, they let me graduate.To this day, that entire month is blurry; I was in so much pain and had been ingesting so many drugs that I have lost most of those memories.

Two weeks after graduation, my behavior had become increasingly erratic and my parents kicked me out until I agreed to get help. My relationship with my parents was all I had left and I believe that setting that boundary saved my life.

The next day, I committed myself to a 7-day inpatient treatment center in the next city over. They took my shoelaces and locked-up all of my stuff.

This is where the healing began.

Often, there is a tendency to ‘make sense’ of an addiction by blaming certain people or circumstances for causing this behavior, problem. For me, I blamed my addiction on bullying, sexual assault, depression, being bipolar, or tumultuous family life. In my opinion, I was born an alcoholic. I always drank and used differently than those around me. From my first real drunk, I seemed to drink with a purpose: to get drunk. Each time I drank, I almost always would puke, black-out, or both. Today, I am grateful I only faced some of the consequences associated with addiction and my family has stayed by my side through my sickness and my recovery.

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.

Sober at 17

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One of my former students at Metro State University was especially supportive and informative when we were worried sick about our son’s addiction – because she had firsthand insight. We became fast friends and later colleagues at work. Today, she’s our guest blogger sharing her experience with addiction, sobriety and recovery as a young adult. Please welcome Lisa Grimm! MWM

Six shots of Bacardi Limon, I threw up and fell in love all in the same night. I was 15.

And I would fall truly, madly, deeply in love with alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine over the next two and a half years.

Up until this time my parents, sober alcoholics since before I was born, had said things like, “Don’t drink or do drugs. It won’t mix well with your body chemistry.” My body chemistry? Without further explanation that statement was awkward enough to keep me away, for a time. I was also acutely aware that most of my deceased lineage had died because of the bottle, which legit scared me.

My childhood was difficult for many reasons. Out of respect to my family I won’t air specific grievances. I will say that my parents were battling some significant issues. I was exposed to some very grown up things at a very young age (mental illness, anger management, financial struggles, legal proceedings of epic proportions, and the list goes on) and endured mental, emotional and physical abuse along the way.

My parents divorced when I was four. My dad remarried shortly after. I attended eight schools before high school making it difficult to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships.

As an only child with emotionally unavailable parents (P.S. I love them so much), I spent a lot of time alone (and lonely) leaning on movies, my imagination and wandering the streets to help me process my surroundings and teach me about the workings of life and the world. While I knew something was deeply wrong, I accumulated survival tools wherever I could find them and carried on. I deflected the hard stuff and became a chameleon of sorts, blending into my surroundings.

When I took that first drink my surroundings expanded far and wide. I had a new group of friends and a full social calendar. It felt like anything was possible.

Those warnings from my parents still had a hold, so I declared almost immediately that I would just drink and never do drugs. Two months later I started smoking pot.

Experimentation continued and within a few years I was smoking pot several times a day had dabbed in hallucinogens which led to ecstasy and cocaine, and boy oh boy what a joy they were.

As Josey Orr says, “The typical progression for many drug addicts goes something like this: 1. Fun 2. Fun with problems 3. Just problems.” Well, the problems began almost immediately with a rapidly plummeting fun quotient. There are so many details I’d like to share with you, but this isn’t a book nor are there pictures so I’ll cut to the chase :).

On November 3, 2000 at the ripe age of 17 I experienced my last of a long list of consequences related to my alcohol and drug use.

I had become careless and sloppy, as evidenced by the sizable bag of pot hanging out of my brand new winter coat as I was leaving the house to go party that Friday night. My stepmom, tired of it all and one to always call the kettle, called me to the living room and along with my dad offered me three choices. I could:

 

  1. Go to the Bloomington Police Station and take a possession charge (she wasn’t kidding), OR
  2. Go to treatment, OR
  3. Go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days

 

I was living with them after being kicked out of my mom’s house for the last time. Despite my family banding together through group therapy and other means to confront my use and problems, by this time I had been arrested twice, kicked out of flight school at University of North Dakota (the day before my solo flight) due to one of those arrests, nearly kicked out of Cretin Derham-Hall High School for disciplinary issues and declining grades, and a slew of other damaging things to my body and mind, and others—namely my family.

As with most addicts, it’s a long and varied list of shittiness.

I knew deep down that I was killing myself. I knew that the young woman I had become was someone not only unrecognizable, but someone I didn’t want to be. But the gravity of the emptiness and pain I felt inside had become so pervasive sedation was the most effective option to deal. So… I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. Not only was it was a far better option than treatment (or spending some time in a cell, even if brief) it was the easiest to manipulate. “Sure” I thought. “I’ll go to these meetings and carry on with my routine and they’ll never know.”

Naturally, I got good and high and went to my first meeting on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at Uptown House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. I didn’t know these people, they weren’t trying to tell me I had a problem. They were simple sharing what it had been like for them, what happened and what it’s like now. They didn’t look like me or talk like me, but for the first time ever I related to this group of people in the most real and authentic way I knew existed. I saw myself in them and it gave me a lot of hope. It also scared the shit out of me.

After an evening of tears and getting honest with myself, I made the decision that I would go to 90 meetings in 90 days and do what was asked of me. If I didn’t like what I found there I would continue as I had been and write the whole thing off.

I got a Big Book, a sponsor, went to meetings regularly, worked the steps, and found a wonderful group of young sober people to hang with. I told my friends at school that I had to take care of some things for a while and if there were still there when I got back that would be great.

I said the serenity prayer from my car to the door of school every morning and periodically throughout the day, just to make it through.

I showed up at meetings early to set up and clean up. I participated in leadership roles in my home group meeting. I took meetings to women’s treatment centers and detox facilities. When I had thoroughly worked through the steps, I shared my experience, strength and hope with other women. My family supported me, but continued to enforce strong checks and balances until I built up trust.

I’ve been sober ever since. I was a senior in High School a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

My life is better than anything I could have imagined, and it continues to get better. Even the shitty moments in life are better because I have the tools to deal with all of it, like a grown up. I have accomplished so many things because of my recovery, but the most lovely and dearest to me is restored relationships with my family and the relationships and love recovery enables. There is no greater gift in this life than being able to have true intimacy and love with other humans. No amount of money, material, professional or personal accolades will fill your soul like this does, at least this is true for me.

I’m beyond grateful for the people in that room that night, my family for loving me through the good, bad and the ugly, the amazing community of sober pals I have and the friends I have that don’t treat me/act differently because of it.

Cheers to another day!

Bio:

Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) is a Minneapolis native who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, where she leads social media for Whole Foods Market. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and American Bulldog, snacking, traveling, watching movies and documentaries, and volunteering at Healing with Horses Ranch.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

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

 

 

Are the rules the same for young addicts as adults?

Here’s a draft that I started in 2012. At that time, my son’s addiction was in full swing and getting worse. Now (in 2016), we are nearly two years into his recovery. Yet the question still seems as relevant now as it did then.

So much of the 12-step wisdom for loved ones and co-dependents feels like it’s from the perspective of a long-term, adult addict whose life has become upside down.  With an older teen to young 20-something, it seems to me the rules don’t fit so neatly.

It feels like sink or swim.  It feels like tough love.  It feels like an impasse.  It feels like abandonment by the parents at a young addict’s most vulnerable of times.  I understand love the child and hate the disease … but in letting go, detaching, etc. are we sending the wrong message — one that may be appropriate for an adult but is inappropriate for a young adult?

Brain research says that maturity and chemistry are still malleable until age 25, so it makes me wonder if we don’t need a significantly different approach in approaching treatment and recovery for young addicts than what “works” for adults.

This is something that my husband and I struggled with during our son’s addiction. In many ways Al-anon saved my life because it came along when I desperately needed serenity and through the steps I did learn and recover. However, I still needed guidance on how to parent a young addict and so much of the protocol was AA-based.

Ultimately, when we realized how close we were to a deadly overdose, we rethought our approach and embraced a more nurturing one. Mostly, with hindsight, I do not feel our earlier approach was wrong but it was very hard on all of us and I always wondered if we were doing all the right things. For our family, the nurture seemed to come at exactly the right time because it was around this time that our son finally admitted his problem, sought help and embraced recovery.

What are your thoughts?

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

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!!

Social links:
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

Parenting in Recovery

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Thank you to our guest blogger, Rose Lockinger, for another timely and insightful post. Addicted as a young person, she is now a parent in recovery offering an invaluable insider’s perspective. (Don’t you love her name?!)

I’m not sure if I was born an addict or not, but I can certainly look back on my childhood and see that I struggled with impulse control, self-discipline and acting out. I had a knack for spitting out whatever I thought not really thinking through if it was appropriate to say.  As I moved into adolescence, I discovered substances like food and drugs and alcohol.  Eventually I found help in treatment. and found out that life in recovery was possible.

Parenting In Recovery

Most parents worry about their children, and fears around drug and alcohol use are often near the top of the list. We all know that drug and alcohol use can cause a number of very serious issues for teens. For the recovering addict who is also a parent, this is something we are acutely aware of.

Knowing that addiction is often passed down from generation to generation thanks to a combination of genetics and environment doesn’t do much to help the fear.

I think that most recovering addicts understand how important it is to address substance abuse and addiction as early as possible. Many kids begin experimenting as early as elementary school. Not only that, but many of the signs of potential trouble can begin even earlier. What does this mean? Well, kids who abuse drugs are often kids who struggle with low self-esteem, who feel as though they don’t “fit in” and who have experienced trauma or turmoil in their lives. While any kid can develop a drug or alcohol problem, these kids are particularly vulnerable, especially if they have an addicted family member.  Early intervention and treatment is key this usually starts with a drug or alcohol detox program.

Talking To My Kids About Substances And Addiction

Many parents in recovery find that their worst fears are realized when their children go down the same path that they did. My own children are still young and this is not an imminent concern at the moment but I have taken steps to mitigate the potential for problems.

I’ve done my best to educate my children, to model good behavior for them, and to talk to them about substances and addiction when it is age appropriate.   My children are still young so I am careful to make it age appropriate. I talk to them regularly about strategies they can use when they are struggling with powerful emotions and situations. For me, the most important thing is to be sure to have honest, open dialog with my kids. They need to trust me, and I need to be willing to listen. Here are some of the ways that I address this issue in my home.

If you are a parent who struggles with bringing up drugs and alcohol, don’t feel bad! It can be an uncomfortable topic, and kids sometimes get irritated or “weird” when you bring stuff like this up. Even as a recovering addict I sometimes feel uncomfortable talking about it. Practice makes perfect though — this isn’t a talk you are only going to have once! It needs to be brought up and then brought up again. Your kids are likely at their most vulnerable from 10 to 21 years of age, so it warrants more than one or two conversations.

Real Education

Education is also important. “Just say no” isn’t good enough. Kids need to have a working knowledge of drugs, what they do to the body and brain, and how substance abuse can affect them. However, scare tactics are NOT the same as education. Kids know when you are just trying to shock them into steering clear of something. Respect their intelligence. Talk to them when age appropriate about drugs and alcohol, what they are and what they can do. Don’t blow things out of proportion for shock value. Don’t make blanket statements on things like “drugs are bad” and leave it at that. Why are drugs bad? It’s important to be specific.

I’m Honest With Them, And We Talk About The Hard Stuff

They know I am a recovering addict. I am honest and open with them. I also do my best to keep open lines of communication with them, so they can talk to me about anything without fear of judgment. I let them know that I went through some hard things. And no, I don’t tell them every little detail…it’s not necessary, but I also don’t sugar coat the truth. I omit information that I feel either isn’t necessary or would be harmful to them.

Fun is important for kids and grown-ups alike

I live a clean and sober lifestyle, and I have fun! This is part of setting an example. When I was growing up, l quickly learned to associate drinking with having fun. It’s how grown ups would unwind from a day at work, how birthdays and holidays were celebrated, it’s what you did when you went to sporting events and went camping. In other words, alcohol and getting drunk were how you had fun. When I got into recovery, I had no idea how I would ever have a good time without it. I truly believe that showing kids how adults have fun sober is an important way to lead by example.

What If They Become Addicted?

Finally, it’s important to realize that despite your best efforts, your children may still struggle with substance abuse and addiction. With that in mind, it’s helpful to have a plan of action so that you can be a part of the solution, not the problem.

Many parents don’t have a good understanding of addiction. Addiction isn’t a stage, a behavior problem, a moral or character problem or something that will just go away. There’s a lot of misinformation out there, so educate yourself.  If anything as parents who have addiction in their past we can be grateful that we have a an awareness of a solution and have lived that example to our children.  They can see firsthand that recovery is possible and life changing by the example we set. Early intervention is key and treatment centers that specialize in youth are available. In the end as parents you cannot control the path your child may or may not take, what you can do is support and love them to the best of your ability through whatever pain they face.

About This Week’s Guest Blogger

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find Rose Lockinger on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

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Let’s Get Local!

Anoka-Hennepin OYA Screen Shot 2016.png

This week, my school district is hosting the second of a three-part series on drug and alcohol prevention and use among teens. I am grateful that local media is helping drive attendance and attention. (The picture above shows the district’s website homepage following our first event.)

http://kstp.com/news/anoka-hennepin-school-district-community-forum-drug-alcohol-prevention/4062141/

http://anokahennepin.schoolwires.net/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2&PageType=17&DomainID=4&ModuleInstanceID=1&EventDateID=11699

The more the story gets out, the more we can address the underlying issues of youth substance use.

What are you doing in your community? If you’d like ideas or resources, please reach out. Together, we can spread the word.

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

I never thought we’d face addiction.

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At a recent community event, I had the opportunity to speak with parents and professionals. My message: I never thought we’d face addiction.

Read highlights from the presentation, here.

http://pressnews.com/2016/01/28/i-never-thought-we-would-face-addiction/

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Anoka-Hennepin Schools – Parent-Awareness Event #1

Thank you for attending the Anoka-Hennepin Schools Parent-Awareness Event #1
Thank you for attending the Anoka-Hennepin Schools Parent-Awareness Event #1

Tonight, you have done one of the most important things that you can do. You have connected with parents and resources within the Anoka-Hennepin school district to learn more about substance use among young adults.

When my son – now 18 months sober and embracing recovery – was using drugs, it was a quagmire of situations and decisions that impacted our family and friends. There was nothing easy about the journey except for the wonderful people who supported us and tried to help.

That’s why I began sharing the journey, and why I created Our Young Addicts as a community for parents and professionals who are concerned about substance use among adults.

During the presentations tonight, you heard from Know the Truth, a substance-use prevention program that goes into schools throughout Minnesota. This organization has an excellent pulse on what young people are feeling and experiencing. They offer incredible insights into the mindsets of our students.

We also had data provided and interpreted by an epidemiologist, Melissa Adolfson, from Substance Use in Minnesota. She highlighted perceptions vs reality as reported in the most recent Minnesota Student Survey findings and broken down for us specific to the Anoka-Hennepin Schools.

Thank you for coming to the Our Young Addicts website. Here you will find our blog, with regular posts from parents and professionals as well as posts from me. You will also find resources and links to helpful organizations.

If I can be of help, please email me: OurYoungAddicts@gmail.com  You can also follow on Twitter and Facebook.

Please return for future events on March 3 and April 12.

Many thanks,

Midwestern Mama aka Rose McKinney

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

sfy bannerrrr

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

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

How it all began. A parent’s journey through her kid’s addiction. #TBT

There’s always a back story. The story behind the story. In many ways this is key to understanding the current situation.

When my son was struggling and after we confirmed that he was using drugs, I started keeping notes: What we discovered, what we talked about and who we talked to. There was so much going on and the lies were flying fast and furiously, so my black-and-white composition notebooks helped me keep it all straight.

Midwestern Mama kept track on details in the early days of her son's addiction by taking notes in black-and-white composition notebooks. These became the origin of her articles, columns and blog posts.
Midwestern Mama kept track on details in the early days of her son’s addiction by taking notes in black-and-white composition notebooks. These became the origin of her articles, columns and blog posts.

Also, as I found resources, I would make note about these: phone numbers, website addresses and information on what was offered. Later, this saved time when we needed to make contact.

Along with all of this, I also subscribed to a number of online newsletters. These helped me become educated on addiction, treatment and recovery. One day, I read a press release published by Renew magazine; it was from Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.  

The report had to do with current statistics on young adult substance use and also highlighted its impact on brain development. Although I knew in my heart that all this was true – we were witnessing it first hand with our high school son — it was the first time that I had validation of our experience. Only, there was something missing.

Immediately, I whipped off two emails. One to the magazine and the other to one of my local newspapers, the St. Paul Pioneer Press. I ask the editors where was the parents’ perspective in reporting this news. Within a few minutes, I received messages back from both publications asking if I would write about this.

That’s how this flurry of writing began. First as a magazine article offering tips for parents experiencing exactly what I was experiencing, and secondly as a biweekly column in the newspaper that chronicled our family’s journey.

1201 – Renew Magazine Article

Instead of the heroic story of overcoming addiction and succeeding in recovery, the newspaper column was a real-time, real-life account of parenting a young addict. In no way was it a sad, woe is me diatribe; it was a hopeful yet realistic account giving other families a touch point.

Eventually, all that writing manifested as the Our Young Addicts community including this blog.

As a tribute to the back story, it is rewarding to share those early columns from 2011 – 2013 as part of #TBT (Throw Back Thursday). Each time I reread these columns, I gain new insight into my son’s addiction and it further allows me to celebrate his recent one-year sober anniversary. From these, I am inspired by his future, and I truly hope it instills hope in our readers that there are good days ahead.

Click through our blog archives to read these past columns, categorized as #TBT, and check here on Thursdays for another blast-from-the-past installment.

Midwestern Mama

Guest Blog: Becoming a Professional with a Focus on Helping Young Men – Part 1 of 3

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

As a professional in the field of addiction, I have the privilege of helping individuals and families navigate the road to recovery. I feel grateful everyday to carry the message of hope. In my first post I will be sharing my story of recovery and how my addiction took me from the depths of despair to a place of strength and freedom. It was my experience as an addict that launched me into a place of passion to educate, prevent and treat the disease of addiction.

Experiencing Addiction

I have seen addiction from several different perspectives. As an adolescent and teenager I watched my mother lose herself to addiction. I spent many nights carrying her to bed and endless days cleaning up the aftermath of her substance use.

The disease of addiction robbed my life as a kid.

In 2003 my mother lost her battle with substances and died an, “accidental death.”

The combination of grieving the loss of my mother and the pressures of young adulthood left me open minded to methods of relief. In the process, I discovered drugs, particularly cocaine, and found the affects to be incredibly pleasurable. The relief I found in using cocaine was amazing.

In a short period of time I was using it daily. I had no idea that in the next several years my life would become empty.

Breakthrough

On January 9, 2008, I sat on the floor of my NYC studio apartment. I stared blankly at the ground and questioned the benefits of taking my own life. At 26 years old, I was a broken young man. My apartment was silent, messy and smelled of stale smoke. Beer cans and cigarette butts littered the floor. I had been heavily abusing illicit drugs, alcohol and prescription pills. In just two years, I had lost 33lbs, become addicted to 4 different substances and blown through every last dollar I had. I had isolated myself into a 400 square foot room and often times did not leave for days on end.

My relationships with friends and family were non-existent. My ability to function as a human being had vanished.

The only thing keeping me alive was my 3-year-old Boston terrier named Emma. By now, Emma looked at me with disbelief and disgust.

Reaching out to my Dad

As the hopelessness grew and the thoughts of suicide increased, I felt the presence of my father.

I recall him telling me that when I was ready, he would be there. I made the call that changed my life.

Two days later I was admitted to Hazelden in Center City, Minn., for treatment.

Within a short amount of time, I would learn how to live a sober life with unimaginable happiness. I would have relationships and feel a sense of belonging.

My purpose for living would change and I would know what it’s like to help other people.

For the first time ever, I felt like the person I wanted to be.

The Desire to Help Other People

Within a few months of being sober, I knew I wanted to help people. I was hungry to work in the human services field and felt highly motivated to support people in their recovery. After nearly 10 rejections for employment, I was offered a very entry-level position at a company called Supportive Living Services, in Brooklyn Park, Minn. With no training or education on addiction, Supportive Living Services took a chance and created an opportunity for me.

My sole purpose was designed to tell their existing clients about my experience with mental health and substance abuse and how I found a new way of living. They called this role a “peer support specialist.”

Sharing My Story

For the next 4 years I worked diligently throughout the metropolitan area, sharing my story and helping individuals get the help they needed. It was ideal, enjoyable and rewarding. I was slowly promoted to a more clinical role, however never lost my title as peer support specialist. No matter what type of position I was advanced to, I still told my story to clients to give them hope.

During my 3rd year at Supportive Living Services, I enrolled at The Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies. I spent two years educating myself about addiction and learning about the illness from an entirely new perspective – a professional perspective. I grew as a professional, but even more as a person. Having the personal experience in conjunction with the master’s level education provided me an opportunity to maximize my ability to help people. After nearly 5 years of working with Supportive Living Services, I knew it was time to move on. If I were to grow, I would need to challenge myself and continue learning.

Recognizing the Unique Needs of Young Men with Substance Abuse and Mental Health Needs

I saw a serious need for education, prevention, mentorship and guidance for young men struggling with addiction and mental health. I saw young men living with parents at age 25 after dropping out of college.

I saw these same young men turn to substances as the method to cope with anxiety and depression.

I saw young men losing hope in their selves because they could not live up to their parent’s expectations. But most of all, I saw myself. I saw lost boys living in a young man’s body.

A sizable portion of young men and women face mental health and addiction problems. The percentage of addicted young adults seeking treatment has risen steadily.

Many have been in treatment before and relapsed. Too many leave treatment against medical advice, usually driven by an addiction to opiates or a sense of overconfidence.

Families despair that their children will be lost before they can really begin to live.

The Boomerang Generation

Often dubbed the “boomerang generation” or part of a “failure to launch” epidemic, these young men often are part of the 29 percent of young adults who have moved back in with their parents and the 22 percent of young adults who report current illicit drug use.

In particular, young males are at greater risk for mental health disorders and addiction. At a critical period of their lives, they face extreme pressure from society, peers, families and themselves to “have a plan.”

These young men often struggle to establish their own identity and can occur as a result of “feeling caught” developmentally between adolescence and young adulthood.

Many do not have the tools needed to cope or deal with the pressures they face. As a result, many young men find themselves battling mental health disorders and addiction.

This group represents unique challenges for their families as well as mental health and addiction professionals. Successful treatment requires a different approach that addresses not only the addiction but also the underlying mental health issues. Additionally, treatment needs to be individualized and custom to the person receiving care. Too often, the incoming patient becomes a “number” as opposed a “person”. Lastly, the person needs to have a voice in their treatment. The young adult already feels a sense of worthlessness and lack of autonomy will increase the chances of a relapse.

The Decision to Focus my Practice

For these reasons, in August of 2014, I started my company, Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health. Our philosophy and approach is built on a person-centered, individualized and strength-based model, which builds on people positive attributes as opposed to weakness. We strongly believe that people recover and seek the help they need once a relationship is formed and trust is established between a practitioner and client. Change is only made once the client realizes that their goals do not align with the way they are living their life. People who are sick respond better with empathy and support versus confrontation and punishment. We help individuals and family navigate the rocky road of recovery.

My professional practice follows a specific guideline that I believe is instrumental to helping this struggling population. My personal story of recovery gives me the strength to fight for each patient and never lose hope in his ability to recover.

Upcoming Guest Blog Posts

In my next two posts I will discuss intervention and treatment and how these stages relate to the young adult male. Can intervention be done in a less aggressive and person-centered approach? Or do we need to use leverage as an alternative to getting young men into treatment? And, how do we alter treatment with this vulnerable population? What type of treatment provides best outcomes? All questions I will explain over the next several weeks.

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

New Content Debuts – The week ahead on Our Young Addicts

We’re getting exceptional feedback about Our Young Addicts, and it has spurred Midwestern Mama to create and curate additional content for parents and professionals who care and are concerned about young people in their lives who are using drugs and alcohol.

Here’s a quick overview of what’s coming up this week, and in the weeks ahead, for Our Young Addicts on the blog and on Twitter.

Mondays or Tuesdays will generally feature an update from Midwestern Mama

I’ll continue to share with you what’s going on in our family as our son nears his 11th month of sobriety and recovery.

Wednesdays will now feature Guest Blog posts

On Wednesday, we will kick off a weekly series of Guest Blog posts from parents, addiction professionals and young people in recovery.

  • Wednesday, June 10: Our first guest blogger is a dad with a son in recovery. He’ll share what he’s learned through this experience and the changes he learned to make as part of it.
  • Wednesday, June 17: Next up, our guest blogger is a young man in recovery from opiate addiction that started as a result of  a high school sports injury. Now, this young man is back in college and has a job he enjoys.
  • Wednesday, June 24: We’ll start a three-part series with a professional who works with families through their kids’ treatment and recovery.

Thursdays are #TBT – Throw Back Thursday

Thursdays, we’ll continue with #TBT – Throw Back Thursday – featuring a previous column from the St. Paul Pioneer Press or from this blog. There is merit in looking back and realizing the extent of this journey, including its ups and downs. It really provides perspective on where we are today and what’s possible tomorrow.

 #SoberSummer Continues Daily on Twitter

On Twitter, we’ll continue our #SoberSummer tips, and I encourage you to share some tips of your own as well as checking out our Resource pages. Click around on the site to find resources for parents and professionals on a growing number of topics.

Thanks for reading, commenting and most importantly for being part of the #OYACommunity.

Midwestern Mama

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