A blog for parents concerned about their teens alcohol and drug use

Archive for October, 2009
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Hello, From a Drug and Alcohol Abuse Expert (and Now Blogger)
Friday, October 23rd, 2009

What do I know about blogging?  That question occurred to me when I was asked by my colleagues to host this blog.  I quickly realized that I don’t need to know anything about blogging — only about this topic, which is near and dear to my heart.  Frankly, I consider myself an expert on drug and alcohol abuse, having used almost every drug on the planet prior to entering recovery over 21 years ago. 

If only there had been such helpful resources in the ’70s, perhaps my parents could have done some things differently.  But then I wouldn’t be here today, with my dream job and this wonderful opportunity to help others.  This chance to share my thoughts, insights and experiences with parents and other caregivers, is tremendously exciting and rewarding.

I began using alcohol and drugs at age 13.  My parents never talked to me about the dangers and were heavy drinkers themselves.  My father traveled frequently so raising me was left pretty much to my mom.  In my recovery journey, I have come to accept that she did the best that she could, but the truth is that her desire to be my friend more than my mother really backfired.  She was one of those mothers who thought drug use was a rite of passage and believed that sharing that experience with me would minimize the risks.  Her intentions were good but the outcome was not.  By the time I entered college, I was a full-blown alcoholic and addict.

The roots of addiction run deep throughout my family.  In addition to being an alcoholic, my mother was addicted to prescription drugs, as were her two brothers and her parents.  My older sister is, thank God, a recovering alcoholic, with almost 18 years of sobriety.  However, I watched her son, my only nephew, struggle with addiction for over 20 years.  Just like me, he began using as a teen, and just like my mother, I used drugs with him, wanting to be a “cool” aunt instead of a responsible adult.  Tragically, he died from a drug overdose almost three years ago, at the age of 36.  I often wonder what else could have been done to prevent his death.  Sometimes I feel that I failed as an aunt by not setting a good example, but I was in the midst of my own addiction, and made terrible choices.  I have made amends. 

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Posted by Becky Vance  /  Filed under Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more

A Mother’s Love and Hate for Her Addicted Son
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009

My son, in his late 20s, is a wonderful young man. He is the kind of son every mother dreams of — caring, loving, always doing the right thing, and he would do everything and anything to help you.

Then without any type of warning, when he drinks and does his drug of choice, there are no boundaries in his life and he becomes a person I don’t even know. Even his facial expression changes and he does not even look like my son. 

My son will work his fool head off to help out.  He’ll go that extra mile just to find that one item on your wish list.  He enjoys all sports but his favorite is NASCAR and he could watch it from morning till night.   He adores his nieces and nephews. He can make you laugh when you’re down or sit and hold your hand when things get rough.  He would love to have a family to call his own, but just can’t seem to find that one person who would love him. 

I watched a beautiful baby boy grow from a sweet innocent bundle of joy to a mischievous little boy.  Doing all the things that little boys do.  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that one day a horrible disease would strike this child and turn him in to a monster.

As a teenager I saw changes but thought that it was just typical teenage behavior. But as days and weeks went by the typical turned into worry, and worry to fear, and that fear into desperation.

It began with small things, until the addiction enveloped his entire life.  Then it was all about how to get the money for the drugs; where to get the drugs; and then how to do the drug but not let anyone know you have.

My son has an addiction to cocaine and alcohol. He has no job, no insurance and feels so worthless.

He has become a liar, a thief and a full-blown drug addict. His cocaine addiction began back when he was only 17, his alcohol addiction did not start till he was almost 22.  He had 5 years clean at the time and was doing really well.  But that legal drug, alcohol — and thinking that just one wouldn’t hurt — took him right back to his drug of choice.  It all hits the same part of the brain.  Addiction is a brain disease.

Parents, believe me when I tell you that the roller coaster ride is unbelievable, the pain you endure is unimaginable. Yet the world expects you to go on like nothing has happened.  Families are destroyed, and those who have no clue about the devastation of this disease are always quick to put you down or blame you.

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Posted by Kathleen A. Larsen-Dobbs  /  Filed under Alcohol, Cocaine, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more

To Snoop or Not to Snoop: Issues of Trust and Privacy
Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Despite the fact that my son Alex was cutting his sophomore classes and ignoring mounting piles of homework assignments, he readily morphed into a Constitutional scholar right before my very eyes whenever it came to the subject of privacy.  He had no aspirations to be a lawyer, but argued like one, vehemently stating that privacy was a basic human right, protected under the auspices of the 9th Amendment.  In his pursuit of life, liberty and unfettered drug use, he felt that his room, belongings, computer, and cell phone were off limits to parental scrutiny. 

As he was growing up I gave him what I thought was age-appropriate privacy, but once Alex broke the rules of our home by using substances, all bets were off.  I was waging an all out war against substance use and I needed as much information about my enemy (drugs) as possible.  Not only did it give me a handle on what was going on, but it allowed me to share information with his therapist so that we could determine the appropriate level of intervention – more therapy, an outpatient or inpatient program.

While he was actively using, I found drugs and drug paraphernalia in the most creative places – inside an electric pencil sharpener, under the rug in a corner of the closet, and inside books where pages had been cut out, not to mention clothing pockets and his backpack.  Checking Facebook and text messages on his cell phone also proved to be enlightening with messages like “R U puffin 2nite?”  Although I did not use computer-monitoring software like eBlaster to track instant messages and email, some parents do this as well.  

When I found my postal scales in his room, I immediately suspected that in addition to using, Alex was most likely dealing, a realization that terrified me on so many levels – his escalating drug use, the danger of dealing with drug dealers and the legal implications, to name a few. 

I carted everything I had found with us to Alex’s next therapy appointment, placed it on his therapist’s table with a dramatic flourish and said, “What do we do about this?”  As recognition flitted across Alex’s face, he blanched while the therapist commented that it didn’t “look good” and he would talk to Alex in more detail while I cooled my heels in the waiting room.

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Posted by Pat Aussem  /  Filed under Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Privacy, snooping, Treatment, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more

The Second Parental Deadly Sin – Enabling
Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Enabling means to make able or possible, to give power.  It is a major environmental factor in addiction. Enabling allows the addict to continue in his disease by preventing him from experiencing the negative consequences of his behavior.  Giving in to my daughter Lauren, who had a spiraling addiction, was a recipe for disaster. It mortifies me to think about how I handed out money and gave her rides to be with her drug-dealing boyfriend during her using days. I think the scariest thing about enabling is that most parents don’t even realize they’re doing it — and that was certainly true for me.  I believe my enabling was just another way for me to protect myself while being fed by the lies and deception that Lauren used to hide her using. 

Facing the truth was too hard and I wanted to be able to trust my daughter and give her the freedom that any typical teenager should have.  The problem was that what we were dealing with was anything but “typical.”  

Many times I hear parents say, “But I want my kid to like me.” Dealing with a rebellious teenager is tough enough for most parents; add to that a growing addiction and you are faced with something beyond your control.  Coming from an alcoholic upbringing myself, I struggled at times with codependent tendencies, including weak boundaries and difficulty asserting myself with my kids.  Living with an active addiction in my teen triggered those inclinations.  I was an easy target as my daughter developed into a master manipulator in her quest to acquire the drugs she needed to fuel her addiction. 

Lauren needed professional help for her addiction and I needed help just as badly for my enabling ways around her disease.  One addiction counselor told me that my daughter was not ready to change because she liked her life.  What I didn’t realize was how much I was responsible for providing the comfortable environment in which her disease was thriving.  Once I implemented some “Tough Love” principles and set boundaries with money and rides, and mandated a recovery program for her if she wanted to live in my home, it rocked her world and things started to change.

Many teen substance abusers are able to reach a point where they want to recover because they cannot stand to lose any more of their former privileges. Only when addicted teens are faced with real consequences can they start to make a change.  There is help for parents available in the form of free meetings with other families who are dealing with family addiction. The purpose of these groups is to learn from one another how to stop being codependent and how to end enabling behavior.

Five ways to stop enabling behavior:

1) Attend meetings for families of addicts.
2) Get professional help for yourself.
3) Establish “Tough Love” consequences in your home.
4) Stop providing money and privileges for your substance abuser.
5) Develop a support system with other parents of addicts.

Posted by Karen Franklin  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family History, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

My Parents Never Talked to Me about the Dangers of Drugs and Alcohol
Friday, October 9th, 2009

Alcohol and drug abuse was an issue we never talked about in my family.  My father was an alcoholic himself, fighting his own demons with addiction. No one talked to me about all the insanity that had gone down in my family, which included the fact that both of my parents, and some of my grandparents, suffered from addictions of their own. Everyone just wanted to sweep everything under the rug and put on a happy face. 

The problem was that my insides did not match up with the image I was expected to portray. I was left to figure it out on my own.  As a teenager, I vowed to never drink the way my dad did.   Little did I know that I had a genetic predisposition to become an alcoholic and an addict just like he was — and it wasn’t too long before I found myself fighting my own battle with addiction.

With little parental guidance, I found myself easily influenced by my peers.  They were the ones I turned to for the guidance I was lacking at home.  I had low self-esteem and hadn’t been taught positive decision-making skills.  My decision to try drugs for the first time was voluntary. I did it to fit in.  Maybe it would have helped if I’d heard my parents’ voice in the back of my mind telling me that I was making a bad choice, but those voices just weren’t there. Instead that first high gave me was a sense of wholeness and confidence that I had never felt before. 

I felt like I had finally found the thing that was going to fix me. My low self-esteem seemed to disappear when I was high, and the feelings of emptiness were temporarily gone. But after a while of numbing myself, no amount of drugs or alcohol could take away the emotional pain and insecurities I felt inside. Getting high just gave me artificial confidence and when it wore off I felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness and fear of not knowing how to stop abusing drugs and alcohol, or who I could trust or turn to for help.  What at first seemed like a way to have fun and fit in soon turned on me and started to feel like riding in a car without any breaks. I didn’t know how to stop my addiction.

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Posted by Lauren King  /  Filed under Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Family History, Finding Treatment, Treatment  /  Comments: 0

Acceptance: Regaining Trust and Rebuilding the Family Unit
Thursday, October 8th, 2009

With our emotional wound still open, our entire family, including my stepdaughter Katherine, began the process of building back the trust we once shared.  This would prove to be rewarding as well as exceptionally painful. 

Sitting, circular fashion in a room with at least 10 other families we openly disclosed our feelings of anger, fear, loneliness, distrust as well as resentment.  “Family Week” had begun and there would be no holding back as we were guided through various discussions with our loved ones.  The building blocks to fostering a new cohesive, trusting and loving family were being tossed around the room while we slowly, and painstakingly, examined the cracks that were created, their affects and how to seal them and move on.

The dynamics within the family are key to opening the doors to change.  When an addiction is present the need it is vital to focus on new ways of coping and “non-enabling” behaviors.  Both patients and family members often rationalize behaviors which creates an environment that hangs around like a thick fog — perpetuating feelings of inadequacies and creating the dysfunctional cycle that is extremely hard to break.

There were at least four general areas of focus that our family concentrated on, which I elaborate on below.  Keep in mind, that although I went through the recovery process with my stepdaughter, I am not a certified authority; I was just a family member trying to recapture and rebuild what was lost.  Every family’s issues will be different, yet similar in many ways.  Issues will surface and may compound as you work on restructuring your family -– it’s not easy.  But having experts, who allowed us to express our emotions and feelings in a controlled, safe and healthy environment, was incredibly instrumental.


It almost goes without saying that when an addiction is present, family members will find the blame game is alive and well.  We had elements of blaming ourselves as parents and role models, believing that the reason Katherine defied everything we believed in was an attempt to “get back” at us for our wrongdoings. 

At Family Week we opened up the floodgates, allowing ourselves to examine with minute detail (on both sides) where our thinking had been

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Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family History, Family Therapy, Recovery, Treatment  /  Comments: more


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Welcome to Intervene. We are a community of experts, parents and caring adults concerned about our teens’ alcohol and drug use and have come together to share our insights, inspiration, guidance and help.

A free service to help you determine if alcohol may be harming your health or putting you at risk.

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