Have you seen them?

They sleep all day and lay awake all night. They only have enough energy to do that one thing. They might have a job, but after and before work, there is nothing of use in them. They might have somewhat of a social life, but when they come home, they have no desire to engage. If they do engage, it is mostly only for their own benefit. You might get a few muttered words. If they don’t have a job, and maybe they love the “game,” they play the game from the time they wake up, until the time they pass back out.

How about this?

They are sleepy, hungry, and with minimal energy. They eat, drink and use up as much energy in the house as they can. They have red eyes often. You see Visine sometimes. That was odd the first time but no one really thought too much into it. I mean, I had some in my medicine cabinet for the longest time. They sometimes can be moody, and can’t get much conversation out of them. How about when you want to ask a simple question and they act as if you are getting on “their nerves.” They don’t have to contribute because you want them to just “take care of themselves.” But, turns out, because you’ve taken care of them for so long, they are struggling to do just that, and somehow you’re still footing the bills. Ha!Oh, but when it is time to go out, they either look like they just rolled out of bed, or they are too good to do that and they get dressed like a million bucks. Either or, pick a day, or a mood. It wouldn’t be so bad if they could function just a little bit more than the average chum. It’s sad to watch. So many young people spend more time getting and smoking weed, and their ambition diminishes. Those kids with all the sprite, and motivation, lose it when they get lost in the weed. Especially since no one seems to think it’s that big of a deal these days, and they have that right, but what does it steal? I guess we won’t know until the weed takes its toll. I pray for our younger generation and their little brains that still need to have less of the recreational chemicals to continue to grow. I pray that they can keep some of their brain cells and do something productive before they shrink most of them, since it’s not that big of a deal.

I’m just saying. It does matter. Look at them, watch how they act and then decide, what effect has it had on the young person in your life? Duuuhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!

Celebrating Life

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My son Jovan would’ve been 27 years young today. He died of an overdose on February 26, 2012. I mourn his absence, but I respect what I cannot change. It took a while to get a grip on how I was going to interpret his death for the rest of my life. I knew for sure that I was grateful for the time I had with my firstborn son. I knew that I enjoyed his spirit when he was alive. I also knew that I would have to be the best grandmother I could be to his children. Yes, at 18 he had just been made a father of 2 baby girls. I know that was a lot of pressure on him and I know he wasn’t quite prepared for the responsibility. He loved to hang with his friends and have a good time. I know I will always miss him.

No child should die before their parents, I’ve heard said many times over. True. But when drugs and alcohol are present in any situation, there is no absolutes. Well, there is one for certain. Both lives and well being are put on the line. Coming from a family where addiction shows up in many forms, you just hope and pray that those genes skip your children. Some dodge the bullets, some get hit with the all too familiar ones, and some get hit with different ones– same monster.

As I use these moments to remember my son and embrace the feelings that have overtaken my emotional state today, I am glad to have what I hold of my son. Jovan was awesome and very “energetic.” A lot of people listened to him and had love for the person he was. He was handsome and made us laugh. He is in our hearts, forevermore.

If you have lost a loved one to addiction/overdose, just know you are not alone. I remember hearing people tell me that it will take some time, but I will get over “it.” I thought, “Wow! I’m gonna get over this one day!” But I also held on so tightly to sad moments of grief, because I didn’t want to “get over it.” I thought I would forget about my son if I didn’t look forward to the sadness I felt on his birthday, holidays, and the date of his passing. When I realized that the feelings and memories that I had of my son, would remain with me forever, I was then able to be more excited about celebrating his life, than mourning his death. That changed me forever. Losing my son, was the greatest loss. How he died, was a nightmare. How it changed me, is monumental. How I live so his death isn’t in vain, is priceless.

A True Dimension of Addiction

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I watched my children as they were all spread out through the house playing their game consoles and the excitement was not comparable to any of my entertaining moments. I was happy that they finally seemed to be having a great time and getting along. Previously it seemed we struggled with everyone being able to play the games that they wanted to play. This is where I started feeling uneasy. It wasn’t something they did in that moment, but it was recognizing addictive behavior and getting uncomfortable.

In the beginning of our “time at home,” due to COVID, we eased into the uncertain schedules that would become our new normal. As the days went by and the pace began to slow down, everything changed. Homework was such a struggle, and we were only completing a few courses to satisfy the rest of the years academic standards. Four children, 3 in elementary school and 1 heading to kindergarten next fall- everyone required me to be their teacher. And then there was the baby as well. She came in January, 2020, what a blessing! But what a time to have that kind of a full plate!

So, as we allowed the game to creep its’ way into the daily lives of our children, it got demanding. I mean, the game was another responsibility for me and my husband. Talk about being referee, mediator, teacher, “chump,” and all the other hats we carry, we couldn’t stand another gig!

I saw it happening. I saw my 9 year old get more tv time than the other children. If he wasn’t playing the game, he wasn’t very tolerating of his siblings, or us- for that matter. It was so disturbing. He became aggressive when he was forced to get off of the game “for a little while,” or to “take a break.” As a person who studied human behavior and development, addiction, and other related topics as they were required for my MSW degree, I knew better. I couldn’t change anything overnight because we both, my husband and I, felt that, well- “their world has been interrupted too,” “they are just doing it for comfort-it probably helps distract them from this COVID stuff,” and “it’s not like they have anywhere to go,” so we just let it happen. Each time my 9 year old (LP) wanted to “finish this match,” or “5 more minutes,” or “I don’t have school or anything tomorrow,” my stomach would cringe when I just walked out of his room and closed the door behind me. I just didn’t say a word. I would go to his father and say, “You can handle that.” We were drained and disturbed by a game system. WE knew we had to switch it all around, but it was gonna take even more energy and consistency. We had a lot going on like many other households and just paced ourselves (infuriating even more), until I had my breakthrough.

So, no more game. This is how it happens for me. I am a cancer, and by nature, I can be pushed really far and played longer than I want (all the while knowing), but when I can’t take anymore, that is it. I go over the top. The top in this case was to just take the games that they fight over, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and the tablets (they use those for games too, oh–let me not forget- those videos of them watching someone else play a game and talk about it to their viewers— ugh! I won’t get started on that!) I do not recall ever, as a youngster from the Nintendo, Sega, Atari era, wanting to watch someone else play a game in person, let alone on a video. I know, we didn’t have that kind of technology happening. Moving on. I am and will be paying attention a little more to the kind of limitations that I should place on the activities in which my children partake. COVID “threw me off” a little, but that’s that, for that. I’m on a roll. No, they’re not happy but I am quite sure, after it took all of these months to “knock us off our square,” it’s gonna be worth it to take the next month and a half to get everyone back in some kind of structural gear.

One last tidbit, as a person who used to live in addiction, I know the behavior when I see it. I was ashamed about letting my son fall into that insanity and feel that was okay. I condoned it and as a spokesperson for recovery and support for addicts, I couldn’t let another day go by and not force the change. I almost feel like I can blame the Coronavirus, but I don’t want to be that “girl.” I saw it, I let it and I didn’t do anything about it. I was part of the problem. It may seem like not a big deal to some, but I know there are many who are struggling with the same issue. The aggression, the sleeplessness, the loss of attraction to anything else, missing meals if you let them, — addictive behavior. I am responsible for how my children behave right now, I must instill the change. Addiction runs in my family. I must instill self control and self discipline in my own children. I never hesitated to help other people. #myfamilytoo

No time to go back!

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In the wake of any tough time, a person with habits and behaviors that are unhealthy, need to remember the dark places in which they escaped. Not every addict has made the decision to live a clean and sober life, but if you are one that has, you deserve the best of life. It is challenging at times to remain sober and in a sane mindset. The difference between an active user and someone who has decided to live a clean and sober lifestyle, is the fact that you get the privilege of thinking first without being consumed by the mood altering substances that are already flowing through the veins of the one still using. When you are sober, you can think a little more clearly about the consequences if you were to decide to self medicate–“Pick up.”

The easiest thing to do when faced with a challenge is to pull out your chest of tools. If you are not sober minded, your tool chest may consist of “tools” that take you back into that ugly place of despair and darkness where active using resides. This is no time to go back!

In fact, this is the time to “lace up your shoes,” and get a good workout. In order to get those recovery muscles and skills to their fullest potential, you have to use them. A challenging time or situation can be the best blessing for someone who needs to learn how to live and handle life as it is dealt to us–AKA, “life of life’s terms.” If you can honestly make sense of turning back down that road of all the negatives, then, by all means go for it. But remember, most people make it when they practice the skills. In my opinion, as addiction is also classified as a disease, if a person wants to stay well they can. They just have to constantly make the decision to get better and not do anything to have a recourse. Restructure your life and deal with those hard times. They will not get better if you cannot be physically or mentally present. Happy Trails.

Enabling the chaos

What a great day to be independent! No monkey on my back!

Many parents are guilty of this behavior, but it is worse for people that have addicted loved ones. Enabling is a disease of itself. Codependent people tend to make excuses for their validation of support. The addicted person becomes used to the cushion that is provided by their enabler. It is sad to watch the enabler as they struggle to make the addicted person have a better quality of life. Make- that’s the key word. That means they paint the picture around the person to make the environment look more cozy. They pay fines, buy food, give money, pay other expenses/bills, they soothe in ways that help the addicted person learn more ways to manipulate.

The enabler manipulates the outcomes and the addict manipulates the enabler. It is a vicious circle. It will not end until something changes. The changes don’t happen until either one decides to make a commitment to change their behavior and their life. Simply saying that they will stop, is not enough. An addicted person definitely needs support but not the ability to keep using, not so much the vices to fall back on so the blow is not so hard. From experience, I can say, if you want to help someone struggling with addiction, take away the idea that you can maneuver the consequences. Obtain the support for yourself and give encouragement– not things. Give a ride to treatment, supply some hygiene items if they cannot afford them for treatment, encourage your afflicted loved one to go to treatment and most of all, don’t do things for them that will allow them to stay in their addiction. You can help add quality to their life by helping them get better and live versus, paying a bill, giving them money, and ultimately allowing them to get high.

Early Recovery-Depressive Moments

As a person who has struggled with addiction and has recovered from active using, I find it necessary to share on topics that would influence those who may still be suffering and in transition.

Depression comes and goes especially in the earlier days of recovery. Some people barely make it out of treatment before they take on the misery of depression. This happens naturally due to the lack of serotonin and the imbalance that the brain experiences when there is no longer a self satisfying factor. It takes a while for the brain to wire a new path. In the trial time, the depression can overwhelm the person in recovery.

Remember that this is a passing moment. It can last a long time, but there are ways to counter it, if you will try. One thing that is suggested is to speak with someone that you like to talk to and are comfortable with sharing your concerns. Talking about what is going on with you, is a great way to lessen the effects of the depression or anxiety you may be feeling about your new journey. IT is difficult, but it is also worth it to stay the route. Continue to remind yourself that you don’t want to be where you were, even though you may be uncomfortable where you ARE.

I would say that the worst is over, but life happens and you never know what is coming down the pipes. What you rest with is that, things do not have to get worse than they are, so long as you do not contribute to the situation in a negative way. There are people on the same road and are willing to listen. If you don’t have anyone directly that you can think of to talk to, then go to a meeting even if it is just to find a sober support. You cannot just grab any person and trust that they have good intentions, but you can put yourself in a place where eventually you may find someone that is walking the “talk.”

Whatever you do, no need to pick up where you left off back then. Life is full of ups and downs and we only contribute to our downfall when we add to the chaos. Look at where you are opposed to where you were, and take on the challenge. What do you have to lose? If you stay the course, it will also be bumpy, but you don’t have to separate yourself from reality to avoid the bumps. They don’t go away. It’s the moments after the bumps that allow you to see the strength and fortitude that is innate in you.

Live, too!

Where would a title like this come from?

Well, living is important. We live and some of us just exist, while living and breathing. If you are like me and you made it past that chaotic, dysfunctional, tumultuous life of addiction, you may know how important it is to enjoy your life now. I will have 10 years sober, and yes, I WILL, and yes, by the Grace of God–I will see that day that marks 10 years free of addiction for me.

I thought that life I was driven by was full of excitement and I couldn’t escape the desires that accompanied. It was too adventurous and no, I do not glamorize those days, but I can honestly speak of how I felt in the midst. I ran and ran and ran until I passed out. I was up, I was down, I indulged in all aspects and all sides of that world. I am so glad that I was able to escape– as many do not get the chance.

It took me a little while to get out of the robot phases. I call them that because, in early addiction, I was so afraid that if I didn’t do what the “rooms,” and the “Big Book” suggested, that I was going to relapse. I was more afraid to relapse than I was of anything else in the world at that time. Let me say, one time I did. My first 2 years came around and I was so in robot phase that I couldn’t even celebrate. I wanted to, but I didn’t and so I chose another way to celebrate-one that was more familiar and exciting. Boy did I see what the others had told me. They told me that it wouldn’t be any different and that I would pick up right where I had left off. I couldn’t believe that they were right!

Even after having 2 years free of all the substances I had consumed, I was like a pro all over again. I was upset when I “came to.” I was disappointed with myself and I didn’t know how I was going to face anybody, didn’t even want to face myself.

Well, with those days being over, that relapse was a huge lesson for me, and I am grateful for it. Yes, grateful. I struggled to get back some self esteem, but going into meetings and having a sponsor surprisingly helped me regain a sense of myself all over again. I don’t think I had that when I first started out. Along with those tools I also had a therapist. (I am one now, go figure–love it!) My therapist was the key to my recovery. He was the one that reinforced LIVING. I had no idea how to live. I thought I had to just be on this walking escalator to be successful in recovery. It was not the solution at all.

I had to find other things that held my passion and interest, and I had to incorporate those things in my life. I did just that. I started a new family, and thank God, these kids will never know what it is like to live with an addicted parent. Been there, did that, never want to do it again. I went back to school, which has been a long road. I am now a board certified addiction professional and appreciate life so much more than ever. I do things to show that I am living. I engage in life. It’s still a hike at times, but isn’t it great to be alive? It truly is now. With all of the ups and downs that come with life, I don’t add to them by being in a fog and not making things better. I make things better where I can, and I leave the rest to life. If you have been down this same road, don’t forget to live and enjoy your own life. I don’t believe we were put here to be miserable…all the time.

Changing Behavior is crucial

Many addicts in recovery- especially in early recovery (1st year), spend most of their time (if they are serious), working on the 12 Steps, going to meetings, and staying in touch with people who support their recovery. It is suggested that you don’t take on any new commitments, relationships, or anything that will distract you from the goal, which is to stay sober. Not all people can hang on through that first year and there are a lot of relapses. Not only do I know from research, but I understand this from experience.

As you trudge through the changes in people, places, and things, and gain more ideas on how to live, your eyes open to the differences between reality and fantasy. What makes a person relapse after seeing what it is like to be sober? For one thing, there is an obsession that has to be seen as destructive and undesirable. Until that happens, the person will always keep “using” as an option. Having a sponsor and attending meetings, doing the work that accompanies understanding the 12 Steps, are all great tools– but that’s not it. People have to believe in something higher than themselves in which they can build a spiritual connection. That is a difficult task for some. First, they have to gravitate toward that conception. Some struggle with the idea of surrendering their own will and desires to place them in the care of “anyone” but themselves. This can be a detrimental mistake-more likely in the long run.

I agree that it takes time to appreciate the value of a spiritual relationship with a Higher Power, but the more time it takes to make that decision during the recovery process, the more opportunity there is for “self” to rely on it’s usual devices. I struggled with changing every single thing, because my comfort zone was with the people, places, and things that I always knew. My struggle wasn’t physical, it was more mental and emotional. Those emotions ran deep as I am a creature of habit and I love what I love. I don’t have a button that can switch directly over to no longer love or desire things and people in which I am connected. So time takes time.

The changing of usual attitudes and behaviors is a risky one. To a person who has been living a life in active using, continuous brain altering, and physical affliction, there is something to be lost. That is the thought. When a person has made up their mind to stop using, they have to have the mindset to change everything, otherwise, they will continue with the attitude and behaviors that keep them stuck or battling to hard to relieve themselves of their addiction. It is not necessary to fight so hard, especially when you know the alternative. Drugs change the brain in ways that make quitting difficult, even for those who want to. So with the absence of drugs, the brain could use time to readjust and reconnect that which has been affected.

Working on yourself is a big part of recovery and it is going to take time. Accepting the daily surrender of what you want versus, what you need, is attainable. Always, always have someone that you trust to talk to along the way. Some may not involve themselves with one of the Anonymous programs or follow the “guidelines,” so having a person to consult with during the time of transition (that you actually hear)- is very beneficial. That person should be someone that will call you out on all things undesirable for the growth and progression of your new journey. You may not like it all of the time, but if it comes from someone that you actually HEAR, then you will more than likely adhere to their ideas and accept feedback from them that could be lifesaving.