Sarah Heath Nielsen is married to Bush Nielsen, and is the mother of three adult children. She is author of the book “Just Keep Going: Spiritual Encouragement from the Mom of a Troubled Teen,” and regularly shares her knowledge and experience by speaking to groups of students, parents and teachers.
A Letter from Sarah:
When I was introduced to the underground world of addiction and recovery I had no idea the assortment of resources, publications, people and programs available to those of us who love an addict – using or recovering – or those who are an addict – seeking help or girding up their recovery. From that first Saturday I sat in a treatment center where our son was a patient, I absorbed knowledge about addiction like it was my job. Now in some ways, it is. For the duration of our son Ted’s recovery I have intentionally accumulated information on people, places and things about which parents are starved to know or understand.
Our son Ted’s problem with alcohol and other drugs was a mystery to me as it is to so many of us. I was lonely, scared and running out of ideas. I read parenting books and met with people I thought could help. I found sympathy, but left empty-handed, feeling more discouraged than ever. We parents think there must be something we haven’t thought of, a key to be found somewhere we haven’t looked but we don’t know enough to know who to ask or where to go. My husband and I thought drugs were a symptom of something else going on with Ted when actually his behavior was a symptom of drug use. We tried to address the behavior but couldn’t uncover the problem he hid well, and we denied. “He drinks too much”, we heard from a counselor but we had no idea where to go from there.
I want you to have some of my favorite things: incredible programs that are what you were looking for, books that tell you what you want or maybe need to know, professionals who understand what you don’t, and programs you wish existed – that actually do.
I took my friend up on her offer and called her addiction clinician cousin. “You have to get the drugs out before you deal with everything else,” he told me, and suggested two treatment facilities. Those words were a revelation to me and my introduction to addiction. I thought, similar in some ways to what Ted says he thought, “Let’s pep talk out some internal issues and then that drug thing will go away.” Not so much.
I’d like to pass on to you some of the information I found helpful. Ted generously encourages me to tell our story if it will help someone. In doing so I’ve been led to opportunities for more education and connection to those in the treatment and recovery community. Many of them are doing fascinating things of which I want you to be aware. Venues, programs and events I’ve discovered have broadened my repertoire of valuable people and initiatives that to me seem sadly little-known. Often I am asked to pass on this information to a mom or dad, which I do regularly in emails, calls or over coffee. It’s useful to have it all in one place, don’t you agree? Now it is.
So instead of texting contacts, sending links, and emailing book titles, there is here so to speak, one-stop shopping. If you don’t find what you are looking for, I am confident that one of these resources will guide you to someone who can help.
I want you to have some of my favorite things: incredible programs that are what you were looking for, books that tell you what you want or maybe need to know, professionals who understand what you don’t, and programs you wish existed – that actually do. A few weeks in recovery and still in treatment, Ted asked my husband, Bush, and I to meet him at a 12-step program Halloween party. It was there, chatting with another mom, that I heard about a program at a Minneapolis college for students in recovery to obtain or complete their college education. Who knew there was such a program? After two failed attempts at a university while using drugs, Ted went back to college and graduated in recovery, magna cum laude.
If not for that mother at that party, how would we have known about StepUP at Augsburg College? Collegiate Recovery – one of the resources on this site.
So many short pieces of information I want to share with you. Join my email list and I’ll pass on to you bits of encouragement and new resources. Get in the conversation on my Facebook page, and let me know other resources you’ve found on your own journey.
What might surprise you is my disclaimer that this website does not exist to fix our loved ones in addiction. It exists as a wheelhouse of available resources, many — if not mostly — for us as parents. We need help, too.