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When It’s Both: Your Child has a Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder
Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

The Partnership welcomes back author and Intervene blogger Ginnah Howard!  We’re also excited to be giving away two free copies of her novel Night Navigation – new in paperback – see below for details.

What if, in addition to having a substance abuse problem, your son or daughter also has a mental illness such as bipolar disorder? Your child’s behavior is erratic, temper explosive, judgment impaired. It’s hard to know which roller coaster you’re riding. Is it drugs or manic depression?

If the answer is “both,” then the whole dilemma of when to hang on and when to let go has become even more complicated, especially if a history of suicide is in the family footnotes. This is the dilemma which my novel, Night Navigation, explores, a story inspired by my own family’s experience of riding that roller coaster for many years.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Sixty-one percent of individuals with bipolar illness also have a substance abuse disorder. Bipolar, or manic depression, is a medical illness that causes extreme shifts in mood, energy and functioning. Most people usually require lifelong treatment. While medication may be a key element in successful treatment, psychotherapy, support and education about the illness are also essential components in the treatment process. Though the exact causes of bipolar disorder are not known, most scientists believe bipolar illness is caused by multiple factors that interact with each other to produce a chemical imbalance affecting certain sections of the brain.

Bipolar disorder often runs in families and studies suggest there is a genetic component. A stressful environment or negative life events may interact with biological vulnerabilities to produce the disorder. This is why when people debate the whole nature/nurture cause-and-effect question, I always say “both” to that as well. Many families have generational histories of co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse, even though neither is fully recognized as such until way down the line.

For those parents who have concerns that their son or daughter may have a co-occurring mental illness, the National Alliance on Mental Illness website is an excellent source for information:


Editor’s Note: WIN a copy of Night Navigation by Ginnah Howard.
HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment responding to Ginnah’s post with a valid email address and two winners will be chosen at random at the end of this giveaway.  Enter as many times as you want!  This giveaway ends next Tuesday July 6 @ 5PM EST.  US only. Good luck!

** Giveaway has ended **

Posted by Ginnah Howard  /  Filed under Addiction, Co-Occurring Disorders, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: more

Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe
Thursday, June 24th, 2010

When a teen becomes an addict, that person you once knew and planned a future for has effectively checked out.  What you experience is an addict who will play you better than you can play them.  After a period of time, your teen’s brain becomes progressively “hard-wired” to his or her drug of choice, to use a colloquial term.  Re-setting and adjusting their brains requires a period of abstinence, which is near impossible for young restless addicts without early intervention. 

Public detoxification is often available but short-term.  It is rarely enough without serious follow-up.  As your teen’s addiction progresses, it is a matter of time before he or she ends up on the streets or in jail. Given the stress of having an addict in your house, either you or the addict will initiate a new chapter in your child’s addiction:  homelessness.  Fathers tend to be hard-nosed and quiet about it, mothers often the opposite.

Early intervention and keeping them off the streets is the best scenario for young addicts. Teen drug users are a tough population to win over.  They will exhaust their family.  Most parents will attempt intervention or treatment, but readily defer to their teen’s half-hearted contritions, wasting your time and your kid’s hope for early recovery.  A recurring catch-22! 

Ultimately, it is up to your teen addict to want this.  Just know that by the time they feel that sense of urgency or “bottom”, their addiction may have progressed too far for you to handle alone. In that sense, if professional intervention is not financially feasible it may be wise to hold your teen legally accountable for any criminality that arises, including legal accountability from a parent.  That is tough to ask of parents who would do anything to keep their kid out of jail.  Unfortunately, if that lesson can’t be learned early enough, the advent of a more progressive addiction and criminality is a far bigger problem down the road. I once had admirable visions for my child.  I let that go.  Achieving sobriety is a remarkable objective. 

Our jail systems are a heavy consequence for a young addict.  Few addicts have funded diversion apply to their offences. Their criminality trumps their addiction.  Reform is emerging that will engage screening and address addiction as causal where appropriate and deal with the disease. The trend we are seeing is addiction becoming a public health issue.  It is a chronic liability to a public that wants accountability for the impact of addiction.

Consider this one single instance: I witnessed my own addicted family member imposing a cost to Los Angeles County treatment centers, jails and ER facilities of over $25,000 while living on the streets for less than a year.  What’s the overall impact when you factor in estimates of opiate, cocaine, methamphetamine and other types of drug addicts numbering roughly 4 to 7 million individuals nationwide and growing, depending on who you include in the classification of a drug addict? That’s worth getting a handle on, not only for our immediate well-being but for the nation as a whole.

Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Treatment  /  Comments: more

Overcoming Denial: Finding Myself Again Amidst My Son’s Drug Addiction
Monday, June 21st, 2010

Please join us in welcoming Renee Kennedy to Intervene!  Renee grew up in an alcoholic home and is the mother of a 24-year-old son that is an addict.  After many years of pain, she is now working on her own recovery through Al-Anon as being co-dependent. 

When I realized how serious my son’s opiate addiction was, I wanted to “fix it”. 

My husband, son and I went to our family doctor, took two weeks off work and tried the family vacation detox — it didn’t work.  We gave my son the option of going to rehab or living on the street.  He chose rehab for 30 days and relapsed the day he was released.

My relationship with my son was self-destructive at best.  We would argue and then he would feel justified in his drug usage.  I gave him unsolicited advice, telling him how, when and what he should do to fix his life.  These frequent arguments would end with him storming off or me telling him to leave, and him continuing to use drugs. 

We tried family counseling for over a year but I was not ready to hear the wisdom of a counselor, just as my son wasn’t ready to hear it either.  At the time I didn’t feel the 12-step Al-Anon program was what I needed.  Afterall, why did I need to be treated — he is the addict — why doesn’t he just stop using since it is ruining his life and making him unhappy? 

My resentment and anger built up and I did not know how to communicate with my son without having a harsh tone.  I just could not let go of the expectations I always had for my beautiful boy, and took much of what he was doing personally.  I thought if he would just stop using then my life would be fine, the pain would be gone and we could all be happy again. 

One day I just became so weary and felt alone.  I decided to go to an Al-Anon meeting at the suggestion of my counselor.  I didn’t like the first meeting, but did go back later and something clicked.  I now attend  meetings when my schedule allows — usually once a week, along with counseling. These sources of support helped me let go of my expectations of my son and realize he has a disease.  You wouldn’t ask someone with cancer to just stop having it.  He has a disease that requires him to be ready to fight for his life.

The battle is his and I can’t fight it for him.  I can conquer my own recovery from being overly involved.  I am not God nor am I cop and it is not my job to save him or police his activities. It is my job to save myself. 

I can now have a conversation with my son out of love.  I can say no to him in a loving tone and hold my boundaries  most of the time.  I still struggle, we all have good days and bad, but the manner in which I choose to deal with it is what is saving me.  I realize I have choices just like my son, and now I am choosing  to put myself at the top of my priority list.

Posted by Renee Kennedy  /  Filed under Addiction, Recovery & Relapse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Substance Use Treatment: Societal Benefits Outweigh the Costs
Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As our economy is facing rising health care costs, the financial impact of treatment and recovery programs on society is more important than ever before. A recent publication from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration called the Cost Offset of Treatment Services sheds some insights into how the benefits of substance use treatment far outweigh the costs.

These studies have found that accessible and effective community-based alcohol and drug treatment is essential to reducing societal costs and health care expenditures from problems associated with drug use.

Here are some findings from the publication:

  • Spending money on treatment has led to important health and public safety cost reductions in Washington. Reductions such as medical costs, state hospital expenses, likelihood of being arrested and likelihood of felony convictions.
  • Treated patients have been shown to reduce ER visits by 39%, hospital stays by 35% and total medical costs by 26%.
  • Employees treated for substance use have reduced absenteeism, reduced tardiness, lowered on-the-job injuries, fewer mistakes and disagreements with supervisors by 75%.


To learn more about the cost benefit of substance use treatment read the full publication of Cost Offset of Treatment Services.

Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Addiction, Treatment  /  Comments: more

Living with a Drug Addict: Holding the Line Also Means Letting Go
Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

The Partnership is excited to welcome new blogger Bill Ford to the Intervene community!  Bill is a former addict and father of children with drug addiction.  He blogs on DadOnFire, where he shares and exchanges experiences and resources in the world of addiction and recovery.   

M. Scott Peck said in his book, The Road Less Traveled, that “Life is difficult.”   If you have an addict in your family, I would add that difficult is an understatement.  It’s the hardest thing you will experience.  After years of hard work and raising kids: BANG!  You painfully realize your kid is a drug addict!  Difficult has just become impossible. And here’s the kick: By the time you discover your teen is using, he’s actually been using for a long time.  You took action but it was too late for prevention. Like many others, I took the easy road — accepting my teen’s repeated contrition’s and just going on.  Denial, you might say. Then the heartache!  Much later, you discover you’re living with an addict.  This is when you know difficult is an understatement.

Living with a drug addict is not workable — you have to grab this bull by the horns or be gored.  For some, it becomes kicking the addict out of the house.    For others, it might be enabling and continued denial.  And for many, it’s spending your life’s savings, while watching your addict carted off to jail or worse. To understand the household dynamics of living with an addict, read Ron Grover’s The Seven Truths About My Addict.  An addict does what he or she wants within the context of a potentially vicious chemical dependency.

Addiction is a disease.  It changes brain chemistry.  Addicts will go to any length to get what they need.  It is a disease that gets poor attention from the medical industry, leaving families abandoned.  We know now that treatment and recovery are a process and not an event, yet it still feels like an event. Families are encouraged to invest a bunch to make that event a success.  Stubborn addicts don’t see it that way and private treatment centers know better, so a non-refundable deposit is required.  Frankly, a new treatment paradigm is needed. We can’t deal with this alone. Hillary Clinton was right when she said, “it takes a village to raise a child.” On my website, I posted a poetic gem written by a wonderful mother called Expectations.  She said, “You have to let go of the child you once knew in the future…” What a truth!
I found, for myself, that I needed to step into a totally new dimension of reality.  Being a parent of an addict is a social disease of its own merit with its own 12-step protocol.  By the time you know this, you have already gone down a hard road — truly a road less traveled. You know the meaning of loss, and you have to act in the context of having no time and merely chasing at the heels of the problem.

Eventually, we act, for better or worse, but don’t let this disease take you down.  Get help!  Talk!  Lobby!  My addict lives with me only if ground rules are followed, and for that reason I often miss him. Holding the line also means letting go in a way you never have before. The serenity prayer embraces the essence of what I need to do.  God! Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

Related Links:
Time To Get Help
9 Steps to Take When Your Recovering Teen Comes Home from Treatment

Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe

Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child  /  Comments: more

I’m Sorry Officer, I Didn’t See The Sign
Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

A while back, my wife and I were having a conversation with friends and the conversation turned to that question: What would you have done differently? It’s a question we all ponder endlessly. It stabs us in the heart. It causes untold hours of sleepless nights.  It’s a question we could gladly discuss for hours and still have more to say — if only doing so actually helped someone else.

A better question for us parents is, “What signs should we look for and which ones did we miss?” 

We asked ourselves this very question the last time we met.  As parents of loved ones with a drug or alcohol addiction, how many times did we blow right through the warning signs as if they weren’t even there? And, if there were parenting cops, how many charges would we be guilty of? 

Teenage alcohol use is not a rite of passage.  Even if we drank as teenagers, it cannot justify us failing to exercise our parental responsibility. Seriousness with our kids and grounding them and then laughing about it later is just not wise. …….Guilty, Officer.

Kids are going to try pot. It’s just a little weed no big deal. I’m sure there are addicts out there that didn’t start with weed but I have never met them. We have heard the term gateway drug. Weed is a drug. Not every kid that tries weed will become a heroin addict, can you tell me which ones will and which ones won’t? ……Guilty, Officer.

The cops, teachers, judges, security officers are just being jerks. Don’t worry baby, it wasn’t that bad. We’ll help get you out of it. All we have to do is get a good lawyer and pay extra; the trouble goes away. ……Guilty, Officer.

Why did that intake person at the rehab facility ask if there were any addiction/alcohol problems in the family? Why is that relevant? It’s really none of their business — we are here with our child not to talk about relatives’ problems. ……Guilty, Officer.

My kid wouldn’t do that or go that far — he’s just having fun. You know, boys will be boys. Basically he’s a good kid and he knows his limits and we taught him better than that. Why do you ask? “No sir, I am not in denial.” ……Guilty, Officer.

I really don’t like the way you dress and talk now.  The music you like has changed, too. Your friends, your manners, your disrespect, your grades, your tattoos, your piercings, but I know you will grow out of it. Any one thing may not be indicative of an “addict to be” but behavior changes do mean something. ……Guilty, Officer.

Everybody has role models and mentors. I do, you do, and your child does. What is the modeled behavior your child is seeing? Do you even know? ……Guilty, Officer.

Being a parent to a teen and being a friend to a teen is two very different roles. Do not confuse your role. ……Guilty, Officer.

Every one of those charges could be explored endlessly and debated for hours. I am not calling an attorney to defend my actions to the parenting cops. I’m not really up for the debate, or the hourly charges. I just know my list is not complete, but it is my list. Feel free to add to it as you see fit.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Warning Signs  /  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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