Monthly Archives: December 2014

Did God Save My Life?

AAron Emerson

Last week my Dad was the featured speaker at Families Against Narcotics’ monthly forum in East Lansing.  He was selected to share his experience of being a Minister who also has a son -ahem..me – who is a recovering heroin addict.  Among other things he spoke about, my Dad gave a quick summary of my addiction and went into detail about my last year in active addiction and how bad it actually got.

Let me just say that listening to him tell a big crowd about how messed up my life actually was and realizing how much I put my family and I through was very hard, to say the least.  It is one thing to tell a group of people that you are a recovering heroin addict and lived a life of drugs and crime, but its another to actually tell them some of the horrible things you did during that addiction.  Even though it was hard, it was necessary.  I have repeatedly offered my story to the cause of recovery and changing the face of addiction and I have no problem with it at all.  In fact, it helps me to know I may be inspiring somebody else, but it is nonetheless embarrassing at times.

In that last year of my active addiction, I checked myself into several rehabs and left most of them after just one day because my heroin withdrawal would kick in, I overdosed two times and went to the hospital another time for an infection from a bad batch of dope, I had to live at two different homeless shelters, I jumped out the window and ran away from the police when they were trying to pick me up for a warrant, I flipped my car in an accident on US 127 going 70-80 mph after nodding out behind the wheel, repeatedly stole from my family who gave me many chances, and much more.  All of that was shared while I sat there and listened while my Dad cried in front of the microphone.  I shed a couple tears myself, but didn’t want anybody to see because I absolutely hate crying in front of people.

I guess I haven’t ever listened to somebody else share all of that and it hit me over the head.  How did my addiction get so bad?  How does a child of a local, successful minister wind up with not only a heroin addiction, but become a thief and felon?  Even more strange to me is the question I ask myself every single day of my life: “How in the world did I ever quit heroin and find recovery?”

You see, all of that stuff that happened to me, you would think, would have opened my eyes and inspired me to get better.  But I just never had hope!  I thought I would never be able to quit for good so I never wanted to go through the pain of withdrawal or deal with my crazy feelings, two important things needed to start recovery.  I flat out did not want to quit, until a miracle happened.

All of the sudden, one day I woke up and had this miraculous feeling of desperation to get better and try a new way of life.  Desperation was the one thing I never had.  Overdose didn’t do it, spending a full 12 months in jail didn’t do it, living on the streets didn’t do it, seeing my family have to kick me out didn’t do it….but somehow later on I woke up and wanted to quit dope.  I, still to this day, have no idea how that happened.

My parents and loved ones prayed every single day and night for my recovery.  I begged God to give me the desire to quit and the strength to do it, but I never wanted to go through the pain of actually putting the drugs down.  But waking up on that morning, I finally had a desire to stop using and try recovery. I finally wanted to change!

I firmly believe the reason I am sober and in recovery today is because of prayer.  Even though I still question how it all happened the way it did, I am confident my recovery was God intervening and blessing me with the desire to change.  For many years I had no hope or desire to quit heroin and I was sure that recovery would never happen for me.  But today I can say that I have been in recovery from drugs for over 18 months.  It has been an up and down battle and there have been many hard times, but somehow I am clean.  God works in mysterious ways and I am positive that without him, I would never have done what I did. In fact, with the way I kept overdosing around that time period, I may have died.

God performed a miracle in my life.  He did for me what I could not do for myself.  Hopeless, stealing, addicted, miserable Aaron Emerson woke up one day and had the desire to change.  I now am in college and have a job that I love.  My family has forgiven me and I am reunited with them again.  I have an amazing girlfriend that I have been with over a year and my daughter is in my life.  God had a plan for my life and he had to give me a nudge to start fulfilling it, but here I am.  If you are in doubt today that you or a loved one will never quit getting high or drinking, please have faith.  I was as hopeless as they come.  Recovery can and does happen, even after years of terror.  God is a forgiving and miraculous God, and he cares for everyone, even drug addicts.  God bless you and may you have peace today!

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ABC Family to Air Addiction/Recovery Series

Television channel ABC Family just announced a few days ago that they put in a series order to air a drama about a teenage girl who is addicted to drugs and alcohol. It could be a while before the series actually airs as this has been in the works for a couple years but has yet to start casting.

The show will be based on the book Recovery Road, a young adult novel written by Blake Nelson in 2011. The book is about a high school student named Maddie who suffers from an addiction to drugs and alcohol and her school makes her decide between entering rehab or getting expelled.

Maddie chooses to enter rehab and, well, I don’t want to give away the rest in case you want to read the book or follow the series. You could always Google it if you are that curious, but I am very excited for this.

Like I said, it could be a year or two before the series actually airs, but there haven’t been very many shows on addiction of this kind. Obviously, there are many documentaries and feature shows such as Intervention, but I don’t know of any dramas that are exclusively about an addict. This show has the potential to reach a lot of people and help change the stigma of addiction.

Even though many studies have shown addiction is a disease and people are realizing it’s affecting people from all walks of life, society still has a very nasty, negative view on addiction as a whole. Seeing a show that follows the life of a young, teenage girl like this could open some eyes, and that’s my hope.

ABC Family hasn’t announced any dates or anything else for that matter, but I would heavily encourage you to keep up on any updates and watch this as it should be a good one!

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What Every Parent Should Know About Addiction

Written by Amber Brubaker

According to the CDC, two thirds of Americans have been touched by addiction in some way, and quite often, that addiction begins in teenage years. If you are a parent of an addict or are worried about your child going in that direction, you should know the facts. There are many different types, causes, and signs of addiction, as well as many steps you can take to help prevent it from entering your home. Here are just a few things that every parent should know about addiction.

There Are Many Types of Addiction

When you hear the word addiction, your mind probably jumps directly to drugs. However, there are many many types of addiction that plague various people every day, both involving substances and behaviors, like the following:

-Tobacco
-Alcohol
-Street Drugs
-Prescription Drugs
-Gambling
-Sex
-Pornography
-Video Games
-Social Media
-The Internet
-Food
-Work
-Shopping
-Exercise

Though some are more harmful to the body than others, each one of these addictions can cause tumultuous mental instability and health problems, often beginning in the teenage years.

Addiction Is a Disease

Many people believe that addiction is a choice and that someone who is involved with it is choosing to indulge in addictive behavior. It’s true that addicts make the initial few choices to indulge in a substance or behavior that is bad for them.

However, what follows is more of a disease than a choice. It spreads through the body, takes over the brain, and produces the one coherent thought in an addict’s mind that they need more of whatever they’re addicted to in order to survive. Most addicts do not have the willpower to choose not to participate in the addictive behavior and stop cold turkey. They need the help and support of others and a good recovery program. They will also need to develop healthy coping skills. To learn more about effective coping mechanisms for those suffering from addiction, see this article. You may also find that these coping skills are helpful for you as you help your child struggle through behaviors that could lead to addiction.  To learn more about effective coping mechanisms for those suffering from addiction, read this article: therapia.net/content/developing-healthy-coping-skills.

Causes and Triggers of Addiction

Though there are many things that can lead up to addiction, the actual cause is a chemical change in the brain. After a certain amount of indulgence in a substance or behavior, the neurotransmitters in the brain get confused and begin sending false signals, declaring that the body needs more of the substance or behavior to stop the phantom pains and discomfort.

Although teens are naturally curious and may try a substance or behavior simply to learn about it for themselves, a teen generally does not indulge in enough of a substance or behavior to become addicted without a certain push from an outside factor. Any number of things could trigger addictive behavior, but here are a few common ones.

-Peer pressure
-Unhappy home life
-Boredom
-Depression
-Mental instability
-Excess stress or anxiety
-Not enough attention from parents

Knowing the Signs

There are many signs associated with drug use in teens, several of which could be a result of something less serious, but you won’t know unless you have a frank talk with your child about their behavior. Here are a few things to look out for.

-Neglecting responsibilities
-Sudden aggressive behavior
-Bloodshot eyes
-Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
-Sudden weight loss or gain
-An uncharacteristic lack of grooming and hygiene
-Mood swings
-Unexplained need for money or unhealthy spending habits

A Healthy Home Is the Best Defense

A good homelife is the best defense against addiction of all types. Doing everything you can as a parent to make your home a haven and a supportive environment for each of your children may be the thing that protects your children from addiction.

A healthy home is characterized by love, respect, courtesy, and discipline. Your children should understand the importance of responsibility and practice it daily. You and your spouse should provide equal love, attention, and support to each of your children. If one of your children has a problem, it’s best to talk to them face to face in a calm manner. Violence and raised voices rarely improve matters. Instead, approach problems with love, kindness, and an earnest desire to help your child. If you know each of your children individually, you can help them through their issues, potentially skirting any contact with addiction.

You Are a Major Influence

Even though it might not seem like your teenager wants anything to do with you, your influence carries a lot of weight. Children of all ages look to parents for an example of what to do, even if they don’t realize it. Think of your behaviors and determine if they are an influence of good or bad.

Do you consume an unhealthy amount of alcohol in front of your children?

Do you talk with your children about drugs and other addictive substances to help curb an unhealthy curiosity?

Are you involved in their lives, knowing where they are at all times and who their friends are?

Do you encourage positive activities and hobbies?

Failure to meet any of these does not mean that you are the cause of a child’s addiction, but it may be the key to preventing it. By increasing your knowledge and changing your habits to be the best example and parent you can be, you can be your child’s greatest defense when it comes to addiction.

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Addiction/Recovery Video

A couple weeks ago, a Michigan State University journalism student, Amanda Chodnicki, got a hold of me through my recovery coach to do a story about my addiction and recovery for a final project she was doing. In it, I share a lot of my story and she turned it into a YouTube video. She did a fantastic job and I wanted to share it with you. Sometimes watching videos are easier for people than reading a blog, so this gives people a chance to see a real life story of addiction. My father and my recovery coach, Phil Pavona, are also featured in the video. So here it is, let me know what you think!

The Six Pack: Advice For Parents Whose Kids Are Addicted

In recent weeks, various parents have contacted New Life Recovery in search of direction.  They find themselves in the same position we were in a number of years ago with our son, Aaron: they have become aware, either through concrete, physical evidence, or through second party individuals, that their son/daughter is abusing drugs.  Not having gone through this before, parents are “lost,” and don’t know what to do.  As the father of a recovering heroin addict, I would like to address this dilemma, head-on.

Looking back on Aaron’s seven year struggle with drugs (he is now 23), it is easier to see where we as his parents went wrong.  We were in denial initially, then we deceived ourselves, thinking his usage was just a phase and that it would eventually cease.  If you have read our blogs on this website, you know our story.  The “problem” escalated rapidly.  Aaron received three felonies and spent the majority of his teen years either behind bars, or in other facilities.  Even worse, he nearly died from overdose on numerous occasions.

Therefore, I would like to offer advice to you, parents of children who are addicted to drugs and don’t know what to do.  This “six-pack” is based on our own experience and failures, and ultimately, our enlightenment after years of pain and suffering.  Carefully consider these six suggestions.

  1. Confront the problem: Some of you have been told by concerned “outsiders” that your son or daughter is abusing painkillers, or even worse, injecting heroin.  You may have found evidence of such useage in your home – needles, cotton balls, odd looking materials, etc.  What do you do in this situation?  Meet it head-on and confront it.  Tell your son or daughter what you have been told, or what you have discovered.  You can’t “pussy foot” around this issue – this is life or death we’re talking about.  Inevitably, the user will respond with denial, and he/she will become angry with your.  But it must be confronted, immediately.

 

  1. Stop Enabling:  As parents who love our kids, it is hard to say no.  It is hard to refuse to give them money when they come to us with what seems to be legitimate requests for cash.  It is hard to deny them the use of your vehicle when they say they need to go somewhere.  It is hard to take away their cell phones.  It is even harder to tell them that they can no longer live in your home if drug use continues.  But all of these things illustrate the ways we as parents enable our children to continue in the life threatening lifestyle of drug useage.  Because I loved my son, I found it hard to say “no.”  Thus, admittedly, I enabled him for several years.  I finally reached the point where I refused to enable him any longer.

 

  1. Exercise Tough Love: As I have stated in previous writings, we were told by professionals that we were “loving our son to death.” I was warned that one day, I would enter Aaron’s bedroom and find him dead, right there in my home, because I was making it too easy for him to continue in his self-destructive lifestyle.  And so, eventually, we took away his keys, access to money, and laid down the final ultimatum: if you use heroin, if you steal from members of your family to get your drugs…you will no longer be allowed to live in our home.  At the end of Aaron’s addiction, he spent time in various homeless shelters, as we painfully stuck to our guns, not allowing this young man whom we loved to reside in our home.  This proved to be a turning point in his life.  Tough love is painful.  It is not easy, by any means, but if you remain steadfast and do not weaken, it is often effective.

 

  1. Demand That Your Loved One Seeks Help: Addiction to drugs such as heroin (as in the case of Aaron) or other opiates cannot, in my view, be overcome on one’s own accord. The addict needs professional help for recovery to occur.  They cannot recovery on their own, no matter what they tell you – “I’ve learned my lesson…I can do this…I’m just going to stop,” etc.  Often times, an opiate user needs to be detoxed as a first step.  I highly recommend Allegiance Recovery Center in Jackson, Michigan for the detox process if you are from Michigan.  A sound, qualified detox center such as Allegiance is equipped with solid, trained professionals, who will then outline a plan of recovery for the addict upon his/her release.  The plan may include a period of time in rehab, or they can hook the addict up with a case manager who will take personal interest in his/her recovery.  The detox center in Jackson introduced Aaron to Joe Lowe and Deb Smith, who are the leaders of Wellness InX, and have been very instrumental in my son’s recovery.  Deb eventually introduced Aaron to a recovery coach, Phil Pavona, who has been an immense blessing in our lives.  Active involvement in such groups as Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous is also highly recommended.  Drug addicts desperately need support and accountability.
  2. Seek Help and Support for Yourself and Family: Just as an addict cannot make it on their own, neither can you as a parent or loved one. Many people are suffering from the disease of addiction alone, with no support system.  If your child is addicted to drugs, you need help!  My wife and I were court ordered to attend Al-Anon meetings in the earlier stages of Aaron’s addiction, and this group has provided tremendous support through the years.  In Mason, Mi., Al-Anon meets weekly at Urgent Care.  I highly endorse this group to all loved ones of drug addicts or alcoholics.  Another group, Families Against Narcotics (FAN) meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month in East Lansing.  My family is involved in this support system, as well, and it is very beneficial, both for addicts and family members.
  3. Turn to God: Heartbreaking circumstances in our lives, such as drug addiction, render us hurting, hopeless, and in a state of utter despair. It is then that, more than ever before, we need the Lord and the strength that only he provides.  In your time of despair, please remember this: Jesus loves you.  He cares for you and for your addicted loved one.  In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are heavy laden, and I will give you peace.”  Throughout our son’s seven year battle with drug addiction, we turned to the Lord, time and time again.  Without him, we would not have made it.  Your current heartache is calling out to you to turn to God.  He can give you the power to withstand, and ultimately, prevail.

So there it is: a six pack of suggestions for parents who, like I, are grappling and struggling with the issue of drug addiction.  It is my hope that this has proven beneficial to you.  I have been in your shoes.  I have learned some things the hard way, through personal experience.  My thoughts and prayers are with you.

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