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Words Matter

Sometimes I cringe in the Mom’s groups when I read texts between their addicted loved ones and themselves. The spite and anger that addiction causes are so often fed right back to them in such venom that it’s hard to know who has the hijacked, damaged brain.

Oh I know. I’m well aware of the intensity of those useless arguments and I’m certainly no saint when it comes to yelling at my son at what an idiot he’s being. But I have learned that I’m the one with the healthy brain too. I should be modeling healthy coping skills. I should be guiding how to unconditionally love someone but with clear loving boundaries.

Mountain Laurel Recovery Center had this great article on unhelpful words:

Words Hurt: 5 Things Not to Say to Someone with an Addiction

1. You’re So Selfish

People who are struggling with an addiction to drugs or alcohol can do or say things that are completely out of character. This includes lying, cheating, and acting in ways that are selfish. However, this doesn’t mean they are selfish people. It only means that their addiction has caused drastic changes to their judgement and impulse control.

Even though it might not seem like it, your loved one is probably experiencing a great deal of guilt and shame. People with addiction often know they’re upsetting their loved ones, but feel powerless to break the cycle.

It’s better to say:

I love you, but I don’t like how you act when you’ve been drinking.

You hurt my feelings when you didn’t show up to my birthday celebration because you were hungover.

I am worried about how your drinking is affecting your health.

2. You Have No Willpower

Addiction is a biologically-based brain disease. It’s not a character defect, so all the willpower in the world isn’t going to be enough to keep your friend or family member from seeking out drugs or alcohol.

The best way to treat addiction is with a medically-managed detox, followed by intensive therapy to develop the coping skills that are the foundation for lasting sobriety. Holistic treatments such as yoga, meditation, art therapy, or music therapy may also be used to promote healing of the mind, body, and spirit.

It’s better to say:

I care about you and I want to see you get the help you need.

Let’s make an appointment to talk to your doctor together.

Getting sober won’t be easy, but I believe in you.

3. When You Hit Rock Bottom, You’ll Be Sorry

One of the biggest myths about addiction is that someone can only get help after something terrible happens like an auto accident caused by a DUI or a near fatal overdose. However, studies show that early intervention is the best approach.

Health issues are always easier to address when they are in the early stages. Think of substance use disorders as being similar to having Type 2 diabetes. If someone learns to manage their blood sugar with lifestyle changes and medication, they reduce the risk of complications such as nerve damage, vision problems, stroke, or kidney disease.

It’s better to say:

I’ve noticed you started drinking more after you lost your job. How are you feeling?

I’m worried about the path you’re on.

You’re caring, funny, and a great friend, but you seem angry and withdrawn lately. I think you should talk to your doctor to see if he can help.

4. Going “Cold Turkey” Is the Best Way to Quit

It might seem like abruptly stopping alcohol or drug use would be the most effective way to get sober, but this isn’t always the case. In fact, abrupt withdrawal from opioids, benzos, or alcohol can trigger dangerous and potentially fatal withdrawal symptoms. Withdrawal can also pose additional risks when someone is abusing multiple substances, has a co-occurring mental illness, or suffers from a serious health condition such as high blood pressure.

The safest and most effective way to get sober is by undergoing detox in a supervised treatment center. Mountain Laurel Recovery offers 24-7 nursing care as part of its detox services and works to make the process as comfortable as possible for each client.

It’s better to say:

Let’s work together to get you the help you need.

I know withdrawal seems scary, but the long-term effects of drug or alcohol abuse are even more frightening.

If you’re ready to quit, I will support you every step of the way.

5. You’ll Never Change

Watching someone who has been doing well in treatment suffer a relapse is understandably disappointing, but it’s important to realize that addiction is a chronic illness characterized by the risk of relapse. People in recovery are vulnerable to relapse in times of stress or if they become complacent about their sobriety.

A relapse doesn’t mean that change is impossible. It simply means your loved one needs to reevaluate their care plan and determine what adjustments are necessary to provide the support they need. At Mountain Laurel Recovery Center, we’re committed to helping clients find ways to move forward after relapse.

It’s better to say:

We’re proud of how far you’ve already come. We know you can get back on track.

Making mistakes doesn’t make you a failure.

I know you’re frustrated, but I have faith in you.

These next 2 articles are about the language surrounding addiction that we’ve been hearing so much about.

The Tongue has the Power of Life and Death



My dad gave me piece of advice when I was a know-it-all teenager. He said, “Never say in anger what you don’t mean, because you can say you’re sorry, but you can’t take it back.”

Satan can use our tongue to cause division, putting others down, bragging, false teaching, exaggeration, complaining, or just flat out lying. It only takes a few words to hurt someone. Wounds heal but they leave scars that never disappear.

OTop of Formur words have power. They can bring joy or cause misery. Proverbs 18:21 puts it this way: “The tongue has the power of life and death.” The stakes are high.

Your words can either speak life, or your words can speak death. Our tongues can build others up, or they can tear them down. An unchecked fire doubles in size every minute. Gossip and false teaching are no different. It’s been said that great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, and small minds discuss people.

The church that James is writing to in James 3:1-12 was full of small-minded people who gossiped about each other and tore one another apart with their tongues. We’re quick to avoid the sins of murder, stealing, and drunkenness, but we often assassinate fellow believers and leave a trail of destruction by the way we use our tongues.

Husbands have stabbed their wives with words that are as sharp as daggers.

Wives have lashed out with tongues that slice and dice.

Parents have devastated their children by repeated blasts of venom.

And children have exploded at their parents with words that have leveled the entire family like a bomb.

James’ Letter

Look at what’s written in the first chapter of James’ letter: James 1:19 “You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger;” And verse 1:26, “If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless.” If you and I launch verbal destruction, those words will have devastating consequences on others.

James connects sins of the tongue with sins of the body because our words usually lead to corresponding deeds. Proverbs 21:23 says “He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.” The tongue can express or repress; offend or befriend; affirm or alienate; build or belittle; comfort or criticize; delight or destroy.

“Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never hurt me!” We all know that isn’t true, don’t we? Actually, psychological pain is much more severe and lasting than physical pain. More people than we might think harbor scars from psychological abuse as children. Those scars are on their hearts and they influence their lives.

Words can break our hearts. Words can break our spirits. Broken bones can heal with time, but a broken spirit caused by words of death, isn’t easily repaired. How many people have you maimed or killed with your words? Is your tongue too quick to criticize? Do your words build up…or do they tear down?

So how do we tame our tongue? Did you know that the book of Proverbs has 31 chapters? One for every day of the month. I’m going to read one chapter of Proverbs and one chapter of James every day for the next month. I invite you to do the same. Nearly every chapter of Proverbs has something to say about the tongue. At the end of the month, we’ll have read the entire book of Proverbs once, and the book of James six times.

The Aviary Recovery Center says this about language:

Just Like Sticks and Stones, Words Can Be Very Hurtful

Nov 13, 2019     

When Addiction is the Topic

You know the old saying: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
It’s a nice idea, isn’t it? It would be wonderful if each of us could simply ignore the negative things others might say to or about us. But our day-to-day experience would suggest that we are not, in fact, very good at disregarding the mean or inaccurate comments of other people—whether said to our face, behind our back, or online.

And sometimes we can even be hurt by words spoken by someone who has no intention of causing pain. Sometimes we all say hurtful things without understanding what makes them hurtful—or even that they are hurtful. This is certainly true when it comes to ways in which we talk to and about those struggling to overcome addiction.

Watching Our Language

We use many words associated with addiction without even thinking about it. But some of those words do more harm than good.

Take, for example, the word “abuse”—as in “drug abuse.” That’s a common and widely used construction. It is also problematic for a number of reasons. When people hear the phrase “drug abuse,” they tend to think about illegal drugs rather than prescription medications or alcohol.

Also, the word “abuse” is understandably linked to behaviors like child or domestic abuse. Both of these connotations of the word “abuse” can lead to an inaccurate understanding of what a person is going through.

To alleviate that problem, experts recommend using the term “substance use disorder” instead of “drug abuse” or “substance abuse.” Here’s an easy way to remember this distinction: “substance abuse” is inaccurate because the person with the substance use disorder isn’t assaulting or otherwise harming the substance. Instead, the substance and its use is harming the person.

In the same way, it is helpful to avoid a phrase like, “Jason has a drug problem.”

Jason may well have problems caused by drug use, or what might be called drug-related problems. But the construction “drug problem” does not accurately represent the full context of Jason’s life and situation. What are the contributing factors to Jason’s substance use? How best can they be addressed? How can we demonstrate support for treatment rather than judgment?

These are important questions to consider when we are tempted to shrug off the ways in which lazy language can contribute to—rather than help alleviate—the difficulties an individual is facing.

Shame is Lame

When the ways we talk about addiction contribute to a sense of shame, we are making a problem worse rather than better. The shame a person with a substance use disorder feels can prevent them from seeking the help they so desperately need.

And what if you are the person who is on a recovery journey? What can you do to reduce the shame you may be feeling—and to help ensure that others don’t feel that same kind of shame? Some steps you might take include:

Acknowledging your substance abuse disorder

Being honest and straightforward about your situation and your feelings about it

Building a strong support system (including professional treatment and ongoing care)

Becoming an advocate for better understanding and less shaming language

Working toward specific goals

Discovering the coping skills that you can rely on when things are difficult

Realizing that some people will never understand your situation

Those steps are all about personal empowerment and ensuring that you are not contributing to your own feelings of shame. That empowerment will ideally include the confidence to let those around you know when their words are hurtful instead of helpful. Clear communication and gentle reminders when someone slips into old patterns of speaking can help ensure that you encounter less painful language while you work toward lasting sobriety. The people who are part of your strong support system—your family, your close friends, your sponsor—will want to know when the language they use becomes a stumbling block for you.

The Insensitive, the Bullies, and the Clueless

Some people simply won’t adopt new language for talking about substance use disorders. Maybe they think this kind of thing is politically correct malarkey. Maybe they think people who use drugs or alcohol are losers who deserve to be shamed. Maybe they just can’t quite figure out how to consistently make the change in the way they talk and think about things.

So what should you do when you encounter these people? In the end, it is up to you to determine the best course of action for yourself. You may find that there is a big difference in your ability to handle insensitive language from a relative who means well than, say, from a coworker who refuses your request to use different language when talking about your situation. Avoiding negativity and the people who promote it is a good coping skill, and one you should feel empowered to employ when necessary.

Barnstable County Human Services
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Screw You, Stigma

Life Lessons From The Pool

This picture is supposed to be funny, but it really is addict shaming. Contributing to the stigma of “what a person with SUD looks like”. And guess what? I did it myself yesterday. After all my preaching and teaching of why can’t people just have compassion- bla bla……

Yup, guilty as charged.

I was at my complex’s pool again. Enjoying my pool float with my blue water weights in typical old lady fashion. The only other people there were the usual, non-English speaking elderly man, who always gets in the pool with his grandson- I’m assuming; and a lady-assuming the grandma.

Soon, through the crinky electronic gate, comes a dad with his boy. They jump in the pool and I immediately had thoughts of packing up. Then I hear the beat. The low base rumble of a car usually with it’s windows open, but even when they’re closed, you can hear the beat. The beat. It brings to mind a person who’s trouble. Not troubled, even though they probably are, but someone to stay clear of, nevertheless. The low riders. Car and pants.

Sure enough, it pulls up next to my unlocked car- because I hate to lug all my keys into the pool area. I panic, thinking of my wallet under the seat. I decide just to stay a few more minutes to take advantage of the cool water in the 98-degree heat. Then I’ll go rescue my car from Mr hard-of-hearing’s view.

Then he comes in. In all his glory of brazen colorful tattoos on his chest and arms & long khaki shorts with a hole in the knee to show another tattoo popping through.

His ‘tw******* girlfriend soon followed with some contorted mouth movements. Yup, I made a quick and thorough judgment of her too.

Then, he brings in a case of water and starts walking around passing them out. He goes around to everyone. The old guy and his wife were shocked. They tried to ask him how much? The kid said, “free”.

Then he proceeded to play with the kids and offer to cannonball into the pool. He said he hasn’t done it in years, so he kept counting to 3 & chickening out. He then said,

“If I get hurt, will you help me?”

One of the kids said,

” No”

To which he responded,

“I can respect that.”

I thought about that and how he didn’t expect anything from anyone. He spread kindness when it wasn’t expected. He didn’t care what people thought or that they weren’t willing to help him.

I couldn’t believe that with the journey I have been on with my son, that I couldn’t stop myself from passing judgment at first. I’m usually hyper-vigilant about “correcting” others.

Yesterday on a non-drug-related site, someone posted a picture of a syringe they found, with the word “irresponsible junkies” in the post. The comments that followed were, of course, triggering to me. The one that hit me was, “I’m so sick of these kinds of people”.

Of course, I made a snarky comment of,

“I’m soo glad none of US would EVER know or LOVE these kind of people.”

Who are these kinds of people? We moms know…they’re our kids. Our brothers, sisters, spouses. How do we offer a morsel of compassion when these hijacked brains are leaving needles around? For me, it just proves how this is only going to be solved with all hands on deck. Not with an “I’m sick of these people, but let me go on with my perfect little life while someone else fixes the problem”.

Shatterproof writes this about stigma:

"There is enough negativity in our world today—further judgment and blame towards those actively using drugs or in recovery needs to go.
Let’s create connection in an unprecedented time of isolation, and give those who are all too used to social isolation and shame the love and support they have always deserved."

Sharing the following story as a way to emphasize the truth in addiction and hopefully help everyone understand. I did not write it but it is how I believe. To win this battle best we can we need to be educated on it.

We were uneducated when our son told us he had a drug problem. We hadn’t given much thought about whether addiction was a choice or a disease. We had so much to learn. My husband and I started seeing a counselor who specialized in addiction. We had to educate ourselves. We read and read, and read some more. Our views quickly changed and we began to understand why our son couldn’t just see the damage and stop, why family wasn’t enough. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to stop, it wasn’t that he couldn’t see what the drugs were doing to his life or that he didn’t love his family or that we weren’t enough. We learned how opiates change dopamine levels in your brain, the chemical that regulates pleasure. We learned it takes a minimum of a year for those levels to even begin to return to normal. We learned things which would normally bring pleasure no longer do because of the change in dopamine levels. We learned that the brain’s response to opiates overrides everything else. We learned it is not a choice. We learned recovery was a long process and that relapse is part of it. We learned that people struggling with addiction need to know they matter and that someone cares. We learned once the addict was clean that the battle wasn’t over, that it would remain a lifelong fight. We learned there are not enough quality treatment centers. We learned most treatment centers are not affordable to most of those in need. We learned that many treatment centers have waiting lists and that many people die waiting to get in. We learned that many things need to change in order to stop this epidemic. We learned volumes.

Our son was a good kid from a good family. He was loved very much. He had a big heart and was always helping others. I know without a doubt he never thought he would be that person. I know he hated he ever crossed that line. I know he hated himself when he was actively using. I know he hated seeing the pain he put us through. I know he wanted more than anything to be clean. I know he fought with everything he had. I know he was winning the battle. I know he loved his family. I know his daughter was his pride and joy. I know he was proud of himself for being clean. I know he was looking forward to his future. I know he deserved more. I know he didn’t want to throw his life away or to die. I know without a doubt that no one would chose to be an addict.

Our son was and will always be our hero.

“Everybody has their own opinions on drug and alcohol addiction, but until you’ve been there, your opinion remains insignificant. Yes, they chose to use a drug or alcohol thinking they would be one that would be able control it. You don’t control a drug or alcohol, it controls you. There are some lucky ones who have beat it, but don’t think because they’re still alive that life is gravy. They fight everyday all day to stay clean or sober. It’s a constant battle from the time they open their eyes until they close them and it never goes away. Most are good people who made a bad choice.

Battling a drug or alcohol addiction is a beast for the person addicted and the ones who love them. So, in loving memory of every family member and friend who has lost their battle with drugs and alcohol and to those who continue to conquer it, put this on your page if you know someone who has or had (no such thing as had) an addiction.
They need every single ounce of encouragement.”

Shame and stigma help no one.

Written by a mom whose son lost his battle

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Experimentation with Drugs in Youth Linked to Addiction in Adulthood

By Ren in drug prevention at Narconon Arrowhead

June 6, 2021

Most parents want to do everything they can to ensure their children grow up to lead healthy, productive, successful lives. That goal acts as a driving force behind how parents raise their children and the day-to-day actions that parents take in doing so.

Parents may be interested to know, a new study showed that when young people (in their teen years and early 20s) experiment with drugs, they are more likely to become addicted to drugs in adulthood.

The Findings

Dr. Nora Volkow, the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, worked with Dr. Beth Han and Dr. Emily B. Einstein to determine some of the long-term effects of drug use when a person begins using drugs during their adolescence. One of the most critical findings of the study was that the younger a person was when they first began experimenting with substances, the more likely they were to transition to regular substance abuse and then addiction.

According to the researchers, young people are most likely to experiment with alcohol, cannabis, and tobacco. The younger those surveyed in the study group were when they used these substances, the more likely they were to become dependent on those substances later on in life. Furthermore, the researchers found that people who experimented with one substance in their youth were more likely to experiment with other substances later in life.

For example, someone who used cannabis when they were a teenager was also more likely to use cannabis or hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, or prescription opioids later in life as opposed to someone who did not use cannabis at all in their youth.

However, the study did not go so far as to make the claim that people who do not use drugs in their adolescence are more likely to live sober, healthy lives.

Dr. Volkow, who led the study, commented on the findings. “We know that young people are more vulnerable to developing substance use disorders, but knowledge is limited on how the prevalence of specific substance use disorders varies by time since first substance use or misuse among adolescents and young adults in the United States. Though not everyone who uses a drug will develop addiction, adolescents may develop addiction to substances faster than young adults. This study provides further evidence that delaying substance exposure until the brain is more fully developed may lower risk for developing a substance use disorder.”

“Research has shown that brain development continues into a person’s 20s, and that age of drug initiation is a very important risk factor for developing addiction.”

Emily B. Einstein, Ph.D., chief of NIDA’s Science Policy Branch and a co-author of the study, also commented: “Research has shown that brain development continues into a person’s 20s, and that age of drug initiation is a very important risk factor for developing addiction. This underscores the importance of drug use prevention and screening for substance use or misuse among adolescents and young adults. Offering timely treatment and support to young people who need it must be a public health priority.”

Five Tips for Preventing Young People from Ever Experimenting with Drugs and Alcohol

Some would say that prevention is the best tool for tackling addiction, as most agree it is easier to prevent someone from ever becoming addicted to drugs than it is to help them get off drugs once they are hooked. Following are five tips on how parents can help ensure that their children never experiment with drugs, not even once:

1. Communicate, communicate, communicate.It’s important to talk to kids about drugs, to have this conversation as early in their life as you are comfortable. Then, continue to have the conversation, and continue to engage your children in that conversation as they grow up.

2. Play an active role in your child’s social life. Rather than letting your children spend time with anyone and everyone, play a proactive, engaged role in their social life. Get them involved in positive and healthy groups, such as sports teams, art programs, youth groups, etc.

3. Make sure the family engages in activities together. When young people feel as though they are involved in the family unit, they are less likely to venture off and seek camaraderie and a social network elsewhere. Simply making sure that the family gets together and does fun activities together can play a significant role in ensuring sons and daughters do not experiment with substances. One study even indicated that teens who eat dinner with their families were less likely to use drugs or become delinquent.

4. Set a good example. Being a role model for your children is important. Whether they show it outwardly or not, your children look up to you, and they look to you for information on how they should act. That’s why parents must not experiment with substances.

5. Teach your kids how to say no. In most circumstances, young people use drugs for the first time because they are peer pressured. If your children know how to say no to drugs, they are much less likely to be peer pressured.

Addiction Treatment – What to Do When a Young Person Becomes Addicted to Drugs

There are many reasons why parents would not want their teen or young adult children to use drugs. The risk for addiction is one of the most obvious concerns, but other health problems can befall young people when they use drugs.

For example, something as widely accepted as marijuana use harms young people. Several studies have found that cannabis use in one’s youth can cause brain damage, harming critical areas of the brain that monitor cognitive function. Other studies suggest a link between marijuana use in one’s adolescence and stroke later on in life.

Another article, this one published by Harvard Health, discussed how cannabis use can even cause memory loss. Quoting those findings, “There’s no question that marijuana (the dried flowers and leaves of the cannabis plant) can produce short-term problems with thinking, working memory, executive function, and psychomotor function (physical actions that require conscious thought, such as driving a car or playing a musical instrument).”

If a young person begins using drugs or alcohol and cannot stop using, they must get help. This is true even if they are using prescription medication in a way not intended by their doctor, as pharmaceutical drugs can also harm young people. When a young person begins experimenting or self-medicating, they put themselves at serious risk for injury, accidents, even death. If you have a son or daughter who is using substances and who cannot stop using them, make sure they get help at a drug and alcohol rehab center as soon as possible.








Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP, LCDC-I

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Emotional Harm Reduction

This is a blog from Corey Ranger at Community at Practice hub.

Enduring Prolonged Grief

Author: Corey Ranger

How do you safeguard your heart and mind from the devastation of the fentanyl poisoning crisis? In the wake of countless preventable deaths, how do you stay afloat? What is emotional harm reduction, and how do I use it to survive in this sector? I was asked to cover this topic for The Drug Hub, and the irony is that I myself, am not doing particularly well as of late. Shortly after taking on the assignment, we here in Victoria lost a pillar of the harm reduction community – someone who was so loved and cared for that I could feel the collective grief surge as the news hit social media. Another face in my mental slideshow, another beautiful human with hopes and dreams, killed by toxic drug policy. At times, I am numb to the losses. It’s almost as if someone has taken a lighter to my nerve endings, and I feel sad about being unable to feel sad.

As a nurse working in harm reduction amidst the backdrop of an increasingly volatile drug supply, I am no stranger to grief and loss. In the last year however, I have witnessed more trauma and despair than in all of my previous years of work combined. The global pandemic created a perfect storm for drug toxicity deaths, and I’ve grown fearful of answering my phone in case there is more bad news waiting for me on the other end. 

The pain is worse for me when I see how impacted my coworkers, friends, and community members are by the War on Drugs. They are collateral damage in this war; field medics trying to stopgap death while being under-resourced and unsupported. I want to take their pain away. Of course, I can’t do that, and truthfully none of us can. So the question then becomes, how do we mitigate the harms of this endless grief? 

Enter emotional harm reduction.

I first heard this term about a year ago. I was speaking with a trauma counsellor who suggested my coping strategies were wrongfully geared towards avoiding grief and anxiety entirely. It was explained to me that, as long as I worked in this sector, there would be painful losses. To avoid this pain, would be to become despondent and ultimately ineffective in my role. No, we need to grieve, even when it hurts so much. So then, is emotional harm reduction just a fancy new wording for short-sighted self-care and resiliency tropes? If so, it sounds like emotional harm reduction is just more bullshit aimed at forcing humans to normalize what should never be normalized.

Self care and resiliency language have become tools of oppression in the field of harm reduction. Every day, communities of compassionate people are trying to keep each other alive and safe despite unwinnable odds.

When individuals falter, because they can no longer withstand daily trauma, they are met with suggestions like ‘take a bubble bath’ or ‘practice mindfulness’. Make no mistake, this is how we victim-blame and gaslight people who are understandably damaged from the work.

This is how organizations and managers avoid being accountable to their staff, while simultaneously demanding them to continue showing up for work. Thankfully, that is not what emotional harm reduction is.

As an individual, I practice emotional harm reduction by surrounding myself with other caring people. I know that isolation is where my slideshow plays on repeat. Rather than avoiding the pain, I have a support network that understands it. I reciprocate whenever I have the capacity to do so, and we often cycle between supporting one another. We make space for each other to not be ok, and remind one another that it is in fact, ok to not be ok. There is nothing normal about the overdose crisis, and we should never waste our energy trying to normalize it.

As a manager, I practice emotional harm reduction by understanding the untenable work conditions my team finds themselves in every single day. Why suggest someone practice self care by ‘going for a massage’ when they have no health benefits to cover a massage and they themselves live in poverty? No, instead, consider pushing back against your own shitty institutional policies. Offer paid days off when a member of your team is not doing well. Be prepared to step in and cover their shift, even if that means you need to be the support worker that day. Pick up the slack and don’t make someone feel bad if they aren’t able to keep up the pace.

Finally, remember that at the core of harm reduction is a social justice movement aimed at redistributing power and resources to those who are made vulnerable by oppressive forces. That includes your staff.

People with lived/living experience have been at the forefront of innovation during this prolonged public health emergency. They have assumed the most risk, and have lost more than most of us could even begin to comprehend. If you are reading this and thinking ‘easy for you to say, we can’t just start giving people paid time off to grieve’ ask yourself why not? Emotional harm reduction, just like the broader harm reduction movement, is about challenging power structures and fighting for equity. If we are going to stay afloat, we must do it together. 

Corey Ranger:

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Harm Reduction Conversations to Have With a Loved One with SUD

Harm Reduction: What is it?

The best comparison I heard recently to harm reduction, is the designated driver for alcohol. It’s well accepted & well advertised as a means to save lives, reduce fines and jail time, and still allows people to choose to drink as a stress reliever. Yet when people hear about needle exchange programs for heroin or meth users-or the granddaddy of HR- Injection sites; they lose their minds.

Harm Reduction becomes easier to accept when you have tried everything to get your loved one to stop. You realize that it’s now about keeping the substance user alive and safe until they can stop. Deedee Stout has a great video that explains it.

We become so accustomed to being shocked at our loved ones continued and usually progressive use, that we end up shutting down communication. Some parents even go so far as to say: “Call me when your clean”. What if someone you care about said to you, ” Call me when you are responsible and doing everything in the manner and time that I think you should”.

Instead, what if we find out what it is that keeps driving substance use? What if we could actually help them work on the original problem, not the symptom of the problem- which, in a lot of cases, substance use is.

This twitter thread has some great responses and ideas on harm reduction approaches, such as motivational interviewing questions.


One of my biggest day-to-day struggles with my son’s SUD is the reality of his risk of death. Fear drives us to into a place of powerlessness. We then project that fear onto a person with SUD who already has figured out how to numb his emotions and not ‘give a damn’ to those thoughts and feelings in themselves; so to have to somehow “fix” YOURS too – is overwhelming to them. They NEED us to be healthy, even-keeled, and strong. In this article it gives suggestions on how to parent using a harm reduction approach instead of with fear:


These are quotes from a past Harm Reduction event in NoBox Philippines last August, 2015 with Dr Andrew Tartarsky, who wrote ‘The Book’ on it: Harm Reduction Psychotherapy: A New Treatment for Drug and Alcohol Problems.

from www.andrewtatarsky.com
from www.andrewtatarsky.com

On Beginnings

Dr. T: “How can I be of help to you? “
Client: “Nobody ever asked me that question before, they just started telling me what I needed to do.”

On You:

“You are where you are for very complex and personal reasons, and we need to respect that.”

On Reality:

“Some of you might think a drug-free society is a good thing. Some might disagree. But the question is: is it realistic? What’s realistic? What’s realistic today?”

On Compassion and Acceptance:

“Maybe I don’t want you to be injecting drugs, maybe I don’t want you to be putting your life at risk. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t accept that that’s what you’re doing, with compassion, and then see how I can possibly be helpful to you.”


On Obvious Things that are Not So Obvious:

“What do you love about the drug? How do you benefit from the use? If we can’t talk about the positive benefits of drug use, how can we talk about alternative ways to get those benefits?”

On Assumptions:

“If people are using drugs in a way that is not problematic, they’re not likely to come to us for help, and it’s likely that they don’t need help. We shouldn’t presume that all drug use is problematic.”

On Risk:

“Risk is a part of life. Human relationships are risky. Intimacy is risky. Getting close to somebody is risky. We cannot live a risk-free life. So we identify the risk, learn about it, and learn how we can reduce that risk.”

On Things That Aren’t Making Sense:

“They call addiction a disease, but they treat the person like a bad person. It’s not a true disease model. Like a diabetes doctor kicking his patient out for eating a donut. Do we arrest people who have diabetes when they eat Twinkies?”

On Roads and Journeys:

“There are many roads to addiction, so it should make sense that there are many roads to recovery.”

“How long it takes is how long it takes.”

“We don’t need to know the destination to begin the journey.”

Taking on a Challenge … :

“How can we make treatment more appealing, engaging, and effective for this large group of people? If the treatment isn’t more appealing than the problem, why would somebody go to treatment?”

“They’re looking for help that will feel helpful.”

… And Not Underestimating People:

“Addictive people are not just having fun; they are frequently managing a great amount of distress. […] We learned that if we give them resources that appeals to them, that fits their needs, they will access them. What did that teach us? Drug users care about themselves, they care about their community, and they have the capacity and skills to access care.”

When One Size Fits All No Longer Fits:

“Many treatment programs are manualized, one size fits all, go through the phases. No doubt that some people benefit from that, they want it, they need it. [Harm Reduction] doesn’t have a cookbook. The form, the focus, the structure, the timing of the therapy completely emerges from the collaborative process. It’s much harder, and much more scary. We’re making it up with our clients as we go along. This is part of what makes it so radical, but also much more effective.”

On Whenever You Feel an Urge:

“Unwrap the urge: is there a part of me that lives in the urge? An angry part? Scared part? Sexual part? Playful part? Is there something that the urge wants to say? And if I know what this urge wants, is there an alternative choice that I can make that is actually less harmful and more effective?”

On Being Kind to Yourself (Because Science):

“Studies have shown that when we cultivate self-compassion, kindness towards ourselves, it is associated with reduction in anxiety, depression, and substance use. “

On Ambivalence, and Why It’s a Good Thing:

“If you only invite one part of you in the room, the part that wants to change, and we don’t invite the part that doesn’t want to change, what happens with that part? If we make an agreement only with the part that wants to change, the part that doesn’t want to change takes over as soon as the person leaves the office.”

“If you can split the ambivalence, get rid of the part of you that doesn’t want to use, now you’re off to the races. ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’ Splitting can grease the addictive flight. Helping patients stay ambivalent, sit with both sides, be connected to both parts of themselves, that’s the goal, really. So that when the part of them that wants to use, wants to engage in potentially destructive behavior, they can stay connected to the other part of them that doesn’t want to die, hurt themselves, lose the money, risk the relationship.”

On Small Positive Changes:

“Having to commit to abstinence only is like going from no exercise at all to signing up to running a marathon.”

“Tiny little changes can help people begin to feel more empowered, more in charge, more in control, builds a sense of self-efficacy, a sense of hopefulness — these tiny changes can begin the process that leads to quantum change.

“These small steps build, they build optimism, they build on one another.” 

“Each time someone makes a positive steps, they’re feeling a little better, they’re feeling more hopeful.”

On What — Who — Matters:

“Somebody once pointed out: a dead drug user can’t recover. We can start by keeping people alive and safe: You’re worthy of staying alive. I care about you.”

Recovery Research Institute has more great advice.


Harm reduction doesn’t have to be scary. It doesn’t mean you’re condoning their drug use. It’s not encouraging more usage. Think of when you first found out your child was sexually active. It seemed too soon, you wanted them to wait, you wanted to at least be told before it happened! You might have lectured them or even shamed them, or secretly cried when you were alone. You might have consulted your clergy or your higher power, but soon you came to the realization that you probably didn’t have control over their actions; & the next best thing is to prevent harm. Teaching responsible disease and pregnancy prevention or directing them to someone who could.

The important thing is to keep the communication open so ultimately we keep the connection to our child, even though they may be an “adult”.

Home Base

Loneliness and Sadness – How Hard Times can Lead to Addiction

By Ren in Drug Prevention

At Narconon Arrowhead

Loneliness and Sadness

Some people get addicted to drugs and alcohol. It’s not the majority. But addiction is prevalent enough and causes enough turmoil for the addict and others to beg the question – Why? Is addiction in the genes? Is it the result of a bad upbringing?

There is no one simple answer to these questions, but there is enough information available to answer the most critical question: Can addiction be prevented? By reviewing some probable causes of addiction (based on studies), preventive measures come to view. Let’s take a look.

Drug and alcohol addiction is not a life crisis that just “happens” to someone. Though no two addicts’ life experiences are identical, most people start using drugs and alcohol because of a significant struggle in their life that they cannot seem to overcome. The emotional and psychological difficulty looms large, and the person uses drugs or alcohol to escape the pain of the immediate crisis.

The pursuit of happiness, success, and goodness from life is more likely to lead to a drug-free lifestyle. Ideally, an individual should view just about every aspect of life through a lens of creating pleasant, meaningful, and happy experiences. Conversely, a negative view of life, fostered by experiences of hardship and crisis, is more likely to lead one down a path towards substance abuse.

Adverse Childhood Experiences Closely Linked to Addiction

Two studies from unrelated sources demonstrate how positive experiences among youths tend to link to sober, substance-free lifestyles. In contrast, adverse childhood experiences tend to be related to substance abuse.

“Behavioral engagement in schools is an important contributor to academic outcomes for adolescents, but may also protect them from substance abuse…”

Sad girl at school

In one study, authors Froiland, Worrell, Olenchak, and Kowalski suggest that: “Behavioral engagement in schools is an important contributor to academic outcomes for adolescents but may also protect them from substance abuse. Positive and negative attitudes to the past, present, and future have been linked to adaptive and maladaptive behaviors in adolescence, respectively. Interventions that teach students to overcome negative thinking about the past, present, and future could promote behavioral engagement and reduce the risk of adolescent substance abuse.” The authors back up their claim by their analysis of two groups of young adults. One group had childhoods full of good experiences, and another group had more harmful experiences.

From a common-sense angle, the findings are logical. Understandably, positive life experiences would more likely lead to positive, healthy, and rewarding lifestyles. The opposite, then, would also be true. The authors concluded with, “The current findings suggest the importance of positive time attitudes as promotive of behavioral engagement and protective against substance use.” Parents should take extra steps to ensure their children have positive life experiences with this information in mind. Parents can learn to promote positive behavioral engagements and healthy, responsible, rewarding, and pleasant lifestyle choices and patterns.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration put forth a great deal of information similar to the above. In SAMHSA documents, hardship experienced in youth has a definition: “Adverse Childhood Experiences,” or “ACEs,” for short.

The SAMHSA researchers put forth the idea that there is a correlation between the number of ACEs a child experiences and that child’s risk for substance abuse later in life. According to the data, “Research has demonstrated a strong, graded relationship between ACEs and a variety of substance-related behaviors. ACEs can predict earlier age of drinking onset. Therefore, underage drinking prevention programs may not work as intended, unless they help youth recognize and cope with stressors of abuse, household dysfunction, and other adverse experiences. ACEs, such as childhood abuse (physical, sexual, psychological) and parental substance abuse, are associated with a higher risk of developing a mental and/or substance use disorder later in life.” This information suggests that experiences in one’s past do much to mold their present.

One of the problematic aspects of ACEs, mainly as they occur in one’s youth, is that the young individual does not always possess the tools for coping. And while they might not turn to substances as a coping mechanism at that moment, if a young person experiences a severe hardship in their youth and is not helped, counseled or cared for through that experience, the experience may plant a seed for future difficulty. That seed matures as the individual grows up. By the time adulthood is reached, just one unaddressed ACE in youth could be the source point for addiction.

For this reason, in addition to attempting to raise children with little to no adverse experiences, parents should do their best to address difficult life moments when they occur and help their kids work through them.

Father mentoring and giving advice to a younger man.

Why Educating Young People About Drugs is Important

As it turns out, doing one’s best as a parent to ensure that a son or daughter grows up to live a sober, productive, and fulfilled life is not just dependent on making sure that kids have a “good upbringing.” The harsh reality is that young people are often peer pressured into using drugs, no matter their background, socioeconomic status, home life or quality of living.

Therefore,’ it is vital to educate young people about drug and alcohol addiction. Parents have the primary responsibility for doing this, but they should insist that schools help too. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, schools are the perfect setting for educating young people on drugs and alcohol for a few reasons:

  • Drug prevention and education are best implemented before someone starts forming erroneous beliefs about drugs. Those false beliefs tend to come from peer pressure in one’s teen years, so implementing drug education programs in elementary and middle school is wise.
  • Schools offer a systematic way of reaching many young people quickly and effectively.
  • As safe havens of learning, schools can utilize a wide range of resources, educational materials, and program steps to deliver a comprehensive education about the dangers of drugs to students.

In addition to doing their part to talk to kids about the harms of substance abuse, parents should also be proactive in their insistence that the local school system offers true information about the dangers of drugs and alcohol.

Addiction Treatment – How to Overcome Drug Abuse

Harmful life experiences take their toll. And when loneliness, sadness and other adverse life events lead to drug or alcohol addiction, the best way to overcome such a crisis is with the help of a residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.

We should all do our best to ensure that the people we love have good experiences in life, not bad ones. If we see loneliness and sadness impinging on someone we care about, we can do something about it. Now we know that such life experiences are not just harmful in a temporary sense. They have long-term repercussions. Therefore, let’s take it upon ourselves to ensure that our loved ones have positive experiences, not bad ones.

But if you know someone who has fallen prey to a drinking problem or a drug problem, please help them get to a qualified drug and alcohol treatment center. Doing so will be lifesaving for them. Don’t let a series of bad life experiences lead to a potentially fatal drug problem for your loved one. Please make sure they get help today.


Reviewed by Matt Hawk, BS, CADC-II, ICADC


Home Base

Walking on the Wild Side of Parenting

From Faith Gateway.com

Gary L. Thomas

Gary L. ThomasJanuary 20, 2021


In our enthusiasm to celebrate children (a good thing), we are sometimes tempted to overlook the key Christian doctrine of original sin. A child can be raised by godly parents, yet still choose to live an ungodly life:

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not listen to rebuke.  —Proverbs 13:1

Some sons can bring great honor to their home and their parents; others choose to bring shame:

He who gathers crops in summer is a wise son, but he who sleeps during harvest is a disgraceful son.  —Proverbs 10:5

Some children will bring anguish rather than joy:

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.  —Proverbs 15:20

At times children can even steal from their parents (Proverbs 28:24) or drive their mother from her own house (Proverbs 19:26). In this regard, the Bible is more honest than many contemporary Christians. In the Old Testament, God gives us accounts of children who do all sorts of heinous acts.

Abimelech, the son of Gideon, provides one such example. We don’t know a lot about Gideon and his parenting style, but we do know that God’s hand was with Gideon as He used him to free Israel from the control of the Midianites. After Gideon’s great exploits, the people tried to make Gideon king:

Rule over us — you, your son and your grandson – because you have saved us out of the hand of Midian.  —Judges 8:22

Gideon refused, demonstrating a noble and humble character:

I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The LORD will rule over you.  — Judges 8:23

Gideon lived a post-military life of blessing and had many children. After Gideon’s death, one of his sons, Abimelech, burned with ambition to rule the nation. Desperate to establish himself as ruler and remove all pretenders, Abimelech murdered all his brothers, except for one. By the providential judgment of God, Abimelech died when a woman dropped a millstone on his head. The Bible tells us that God lay behind this attack:

Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech had done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers.  —Judges 9:56

God apparently didn’t have a problem considering this child a curse. In His providential plan, He sought the death of this wickedly ambitious son.

Sometimes a wayward son or daughter results from a poor upbringing; the parents may indeed have to assume some of the blame (Proverbs 29:15). But a child can receive many spiritual advantages and still choose, with the freedom God gives him, to become a wayward son. Jesus loved Judas as a son, yet the betrayer still opted to turn against Him. Adam and Eve had a godly son (Abel) and a murderous son (Cain). Was their parenting the only factor leading Abel to offer worthy sacrifices and Cain to turn into a selfish, jealous, and bloodthirsty sibling?

President John Adams had one son  —John Quincy — who followed him into the presidency and enjoyed a prosperous career. Two other sons had shameful lifestyles. Charles Adams became an alcoholic – his mother described him as a “poor, unhappy, wretched man.” One relative described Thomas Adams as “one of the most unpleasant characters in this world… a brute in manners and a bully to his family.” John and Abigail raised one remarkable son and two disgraceful ones. Was their parenting the only factor that determined each boy’s character?

I suspect I’ve probably raised more than a few eyebrows by now. I can even imagine some condemnations: “How dare you suggest children aren’t a blessing? I bet you also favor abortion, don’t you?”

No, I definitely do not. I am ardently, passionately, and unequivocally pro-life. But I’ve also had enough life experience to know that parenting – even sacred parenting – comes with no guarantees, and I grieve for the good, decent, and godly parents who get treated like pariahs because a kid of theirs goes bad. They weren’t “perfect” parents, of course, and in that sense they may share some of the blame. But tell me – just who is a perfect parent?

Show me one father or one mother who didn’t, at times, spoil their child, just a little. Who didn’t, out of fear or weariness or ignorance or overcommitment, fail to confront something that needed to be faced, at least one time? I’ll let that parent cast the first stone.

Some of us got away with it; some of us didn’t. In my travels I’ve met far too many godly parents who live with a gaping wound. Not only do they face the pain of watching their deeply loved child self- destruct, but they also live with a judgment that the child’s abhorrent way of life stems from their failure as parents.

Godly children are a tremendous blessing; this is a precious biblical truth. But Scripture is honest, and we should be as well. Wayward children can, at the very least, feel like a fierce curse.

How sobering to face the vulnerability that someone could make our lives absolutely miserable – and yet we would lay down our lives on his or her behalf without thinking about it. Just such an amazing spiritual transformation takes place in the journey of parenting. Once again, Paul models our call to this ministry when he writes,

Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?  —2 Corinthians 11:29

For many of us, however, the difficulty of parenting comes not in facing betrayal but in enduring a very tiring occupation. Today’s Christian usually prays for relief, for comfort, and for healing – but that’s not always what Scripture teaches us to do.

For example, the apostle Paul prayed that the Colossians would be…

…strengthened with all power according to [God’s] glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.  —Colossians 1:11

Instead of immediately asking for their deliverance, Paul prayed that the believers in Colosse would grow in maturity. If you think about it, how do we grow in endurance and patience? Only one path exists, which we’ve already mentioned: to have both our endurance and patience sorely tried, even past the breaking point, until we learn to rest in God’s “glorious might.” You’ll never develop your biceps if you lift just one-pound weights; you have to stress the muscle beyond its normal routine. The same principle holds true spiritually. If God gives us situations we already have the strength to handle, we won’t have to grow in order to deal with them.

The crux of the issue is this: Our first and natural inclination in any trial is to pray for God to remove the difficulty. But God’s first priority is often to strengthen us in the midst of the difficulty rather than to take us out of the difficulty. That’s because He can see the treasure that lies at the end of the trail.

Consider how many times you have broken your promises once offered fervently and earnestly to God. Consider on how many occasions you have said or thought or even done vile things in full sight of a holy and perfect God. Consider God’s eagerness to forgive you, the persistence of His grace, the limitless supply of His understanding and patience and mercy  —all offered without condition on your behalf.

Without difficult children, we might take this patience and mercy and forgiveness for granted. That’s where difficult children become a rare gift – they show us a side of God we might otherwise miss.

Parenting may not be an easy journey, but in this it is truly a sacred one.

Please go to original post and read the comments. Very helpful.

Home Base

Addictology Deconstructed

Yup you read that right.

Kind of a tongue twister, but this Doctor really did a great job at deconstructing addiction for the layman. She lived it as a heroin addict while in medical school and for years after. She wrote her experience in this inciteful Book.

She is such a valued resource in educating people on why their loved ones are acting so rude and ridiculous.

It really does come down to what we’ve heard before-those damn pleasure centers that we ALL love so much.

The hippocampus and amygdala are our motivators to get up every day & seek out pleasure- however small.

That part of the brain becomes so flushed & overwhelmed with opiods ( thanks in part to Purdue-👿) that the addict can’t derive ANY pleasure from ANYTHING else, so they spend every waking minute of every single day seeking out ways to achieve that pleasure.

This usually means trompelling on anybody and anything just for one more day of trying to reach the pleasure centers’ levels of the day before. It soon becomes a grueling game of only using to avoid sickness with almost zero pleasure. A viscious horrible rat wheel cycle of a never ending purple gobstopper in a relentless version of groundhog day.

She gives the best explanation of the brain of a person with substance use disorder.

Nicole Labor book

Here’s her live talk. Hope you enjoy them

Home Base

Take A Step Back

This was the message that I received loud and clear last Friday, after hitting brick after brick in the wall of my sons incarceration/ court/ addiction / recovery/ ORS journey.

My frustration turned to self reflection that perhaps ‘I’ was trying too hard {again} to guide his recovery- instead of him doing it.

It’s true, he needed assistance. He was in such severe withdrawals from being a twice- a-day IV heroin & meth user that he used on his 5th day in jail. He was placed in solitary confinement for 21 days they brought him out only for his hearings where the judge and the opposing child support attorney would berate him for his failure in life. Yet orders were given to find treatment while serving a 30 day arrest they imposed on him. So not only did he receive 2 felonies for the drug usage in a “government facility” -because he couldn’t “suddenly quit” a disease he’s had for over 3 years- but he was to immediately become responsible and display rational thinking.

I’m not condoning any of his actions or saying he shouldn’t pay the consequences of his actions. I’m just saying that I, as his mom, still love him as a human, despite being broken, ashamed, yet still prideful, and certainly not well. The court and others, focus on his wrongdoings & inflict that punishment as they see fit.

So I went to work on the research that I thought I was prepared for. As stated in my previous post on rehabs, I knew what to do. It just didn’t seem to be working after two weeks of trying.

I had to have a “come to Jesus moment” as the saying goes. I said, to my higher power: “Ok, I get it. I’m obviously not the one who’s going to make any difference in my son’s recovery, so I will step aside and let ‘whoever’ will be more effective, to come in”.

On Saturday, he informed me that he didn’t think he could be successful at an inpatient rehab and was going to try to do outpatient. This meant that he would go back to his previous life of couch surfing, no car, and no official job.

I was devastated and angry. I guess I hadn’t really let go, but certainly was forced to now.

By Tuesday I had calmed down, especially when hearing his story of a man he met in there. A man who told him the following in straight prison talk language:

I know one thing you're a hard-headed mfer you couldn't be taught anything if your life depends on it cuz you're too goddam smart- you know everything right dumbA? I bet you didn't even graduate high school cuz you already knew more than them low-paid dumbA teacher's. I was like, "do you just talk to me cuz you need to constantly talk shit?".. he chuckled and said there you go interrupting. let me finish dumbA... he said what you lack in listening skills and brains you make up for in stubborn don't quit attitude. I've seen you push through workouts till you can't get in your bunk ect.. he said you want to change but don't know how. well its real simple. you want to be successful get back to work lazy and quit breaking the law. you want to loose weight quit eating. you want to get in better shape get off your ass and work out....

Despite all the prison talk, my heart wept with gratefulness. This hard core unknown man, locked up with my son, was teaching him more about life and himself than a few dozen classes might.

Things that I had tried to tell him in the entire last year of not seeing him and employing the obligatory “tough love”, which only pushed my son further into the drug scene.

The next day, a miracle clergy man that I had happened to find, was finally able to meet with my boy with 3 inches of plexiglass between them. He sent me this message after:

“I’m sitting here outside the jail, thinking what a good guy your son is. He reminds me of my son, who was addicted too & now has been clean 8 years. I gave your son a blessing and I will pray for him”.

It still gives me a lump in my throat to think of these strangers- caring about my son. My son has never done anything for them and they have nothing to gain, yet they showed kindness in their own way.

The very next day, my son read The Freedom Model book and was blown away! This was his idea of a do-able path to recovery. He was so impressed that he wants to go to their treatment center in New York. It would be perfect. Something he can put full-on effort into and the court would approve of. It’s also primarily for businessmen, which is perfect for him because he’s an entrepreneur. The only problem is, it’s private and extremely pricey. They have payment plans but its completely out of my monthly budget.

So I don’t know what will happen next week. If he gets released, it will be back to his old routine and game-on – addiction. If by some miracle he is directed (or forced) a different way, then I will be relieved.

This is out of my hands.

It’s between my son and God.

I can only pray that my son will find his way out.

Home Base

The Forgotten Pool

Life lessons from the pool

As the clear sky reflected off the deep blue of the water, I glided through the pool in a quiet calm. I was alone, enjoying my old familiar routine after an entire year without access to the pool.

Yup, you guessed it- due to Covid.

I couldn’t believe how much I missed it! What’s funny is- during those years where I went swimming 3 or more times a week; I remember thinking, “this isn’t even doing me any good, I’m not losing any weight”. Little did I know how good it was for my sanity, and also how it actually had maintained my weight. I’ve gained a good 15 lbs in one year AND almost went off the DEEP end of crazy.

So, in my reminiscent, exhilarating state of a refreshing solo swim, I hear the gate open. I should say that I felt the presence before the gate even opened. The lady with the Hawaiian Print skirts.

She swooped in – with all her glory- her glory being about a hundred bags & towels and precious water bottle and the boy. Ahh- I remember her.

I don’t know many people in my complex and zero names, but I know “characters”. Very quickly it became clear as she started barking orders to THE BOY, that she was the one who liked to bark orders & sneers to THE BOY. The boy being about 13 by now; I remember him as a 10 yr old, then 11; excited to be at the pool, wanting to please his mom, but only getting negative feedback with not only her words but the tone of them.

She seemed irritated with him. Always. I’m a pretty good judge of brat- factors in kids & this kid didn’t strike me as one who fit the annoying part. Which is surprising because it seemed she took every opportunity to make him feel like shit.

With my solace obviously ruined, I packed up as quickly as I could. I wanted to scream as I went out the gate:

"Do you realize that you only have maybe one or two years left before he isn't going to give a rats- ass about you or coming to the pool?!!!!

Do you realize that if he feels like he never lives up to your expectations, hes going to find someone or someone or some THING that accepts him?

Do you know the first time he tastes alcohol or hits his first joint or tries heroin, it's going to feel like he found heaven to fill up all his empty holes of inadequacy & self-worth?

He's going to start a love affair with an illusion - albeit a powerful tangible one- that 'might' take a lifetime to get over".

But I kept silent.

I walked out of the gate with my measly bag & foam water weights & headed to the safety of my car where I could check messages from my first born son who’s in purgatory county jail………..