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

Archive for December, 2010
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What to Do if You Think Your Child Is on Drugs
Friday, December 24th, 2010

Teens sharing pills

Take a deep breath…

You’re not a failure as a parent. You’re not helpless. And you’re not alone.

If you think you’re a failure, consider this: There are many kids with neglectful parents who never use drugs. There are also children with seemingly model parents who do use drugs.

So the first thing to accept is that drugs, while indeed dangerous, are one more problem for your youngsters to handle. And they’ll do it better and faster if you’re aware, involved and don’t stick your head in the sand.


Part of awareness and a major deterrent to experimentation is to talk to your kids about drugs.

But even with a lot of parental involvement, there are no guarantees. So it’s important to know the symptoms of drug use and to take action if you see your kid displaying them.


There are no symptoms that are absolutely reliable. But there are clues.

Most of these symptoms tend to be gradual which is why parental awareness is so important.

Don’t jump to conclusions, but do investigate any suspicions you have as fully as possible. Trust your intuition.

Many of the warning signs for drug use are the same as those for depression or for the ups and downs of being a teenager. There’s also the possibility it’s a physical or emotional problem.

But whatever the problem, we’re talking about a child who needs help. Right now.


Nothing beats the power of love and family support. That has to start with frank discussion.

Don’t make it an attack. And don’t try to talk with your child if he or she seems under the influence.

Wait for a calm moment and then explain that you’re worried about a certain behavior (be specific) and give your child every opportunity to explain. That means really listening, not doing all the talking.

Use “I” messages — sentences that start with “I” — explaining how your child’s drug use affects you and your family.

At the same time, it’s important to speak frankly about the possibility of drugs. And it’s particularly important to talk about your values and why you’re dead set against drugs.

If your youngster seems evasive or if his or her explanations are not convincing, you should consult your doctor or a professional substance abuse counselor to rule out illness and to ask for advice.

In addition, you may also want to have your child visit a mental health professional to see if there are emotional problems.


Even if your child seems non-responsive or belligerent, if you suspect drugs are involved, immediate action is vital.

First, you’ll need an evaluation from a health professional skilled in diagnosing adolescents with alcohol or drug problems. You may want to get involved with an intervention program to learn techniques that will help convince a drug user to accept help. For the user, there are self-help, outpatient, day care, residency, and 24-hour hospitalization programs.

The right program depends entirely on the circumstances and the degree of drug involvement. Here, you’ll need professional help to make an informed choice.

Another point: If a program is to succeed, the family needs to be part of it. This can mean personal or family counseling. It may also involve participating in a support group where you learn about co-dependency and how not to play into the problems that might prompt further drug use.

If you don’t know about drug programs in your area, call your family doctor, local hospital or county mental health society or school counselor for a referral. You can also call a national helpline and get a referral, read our Treatment eBook for advice  or use the treatment locator.


That child who upsets you so much is the same little boy or girl who, only yesterday, gave you such joy. They’re in way over their heads, and they never needed you quite as much as they need you now.

No matter what they say.

Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, snooping, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more

Make Your Holidays Happier: Establish Boundaries with Your Addicted Child
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Well, here we are again.  No sooner have we unwrapped our last miniature Halloween Snickers than we are being bombarded with Christmas.  Sometimes I think it would be nice if the holidays came around like the Olympics every 2 or 4 years; or if we could skip them altogether and just hang a sign on our front door saying “Gone fishin’… please come back after January 3rd.”

But, since none of those options are really doable, we are confronted with yet another holiday season where we hope that all things — people, food and presents — will be perfect.  After all, that’s what the ads promise.

Hmm… a lovely thought, but what if you’re anxious about spending the holiday with the drug-addicted child  in your life?

During this time of year, many of my clients look for guidance on how to establish and secure their boundaries with their addicted child.  They want to include him or her in the family festivities and are pulled toward family unity but at the same time anxious about the unpredictable behavior. They have witnessed other occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries or just plain Sunday night dinner, when the drug-addicted child arrived intoxicated or just sported a really poor and dower attitude and all hell broke loose due to anything or nothing.  Since the past is a teacher, we can’t help but be apprehensive — yet hopeful that maybe this time will be different.

To ease your mind, establish some simple, respectful boundaries with your drug-addicted child. Here are some suggestions:

1. Arrive at the designated time, being well-groomed and dressed appropriately.
2. Be clean and sober is paramount to participation.  If you smell alcohol on their breath or he or she acts intoxicated or high you will not let him in, or if they live there, you will ask them to stay away from the festivities until the event is over.
3. A cheerful and kind demeanor is also an entry ticket as anger or a “woe is me”, chin-on-the-buttons attitude is unwelcome.

Pick boundaries that are important to you and that your child MUST adhere to  or he or she will not be welcome to participate in the family festivities.  Keep the boundaries simple, doable, short and to the point. There is no need to defend yourself regarding your decisions and if you don’t engage and stay neutral you will be perceived as having a plan that is thought out and smacks of self-respect.

Don’t let your boundaries be built on quicksand where you acquiesce because your child spins an excuse as to why they have not lived up to his or her end of the bargain and resorts to tugging at your heartstrings or by yelling and screaming.  Please don’t fall prey to thinking, “Oh well, I’ll overlook this because it’s the holidays.” Or “It’s the holidays and I just don’t want to be unhappy or make my loved one unhappy.”

If your child doesn’t like your holiday rules, be committed to a response like, “That makes me sad that you won’t be joining us, but that’s your choice.”  He now has to shoulder all the responsibility for his decision even though he may try to blame you.  As disheartening as that outcome may be, you are taking care of yourself and the other members of your family and in the long run you will have earned a new found respect not only from the addicted child, but family members and friends as well.  After all, there is a bigger picture here, than just appeasing one person in a larger family unit.

Holidays can be wonderful and fun.  But they are certainly more enjoyable if there is warmth and love, coupled with respect and dignity toward one another.  After all, it should be a time of reflection on the abundance of gratitude that the year has brought.  Hopefully your addicted child can participate with family and friends as he would like and as you would like.  However, it’s ok if it doesn’t happen this year for this particular holiday.  After all, there is myriad of other occasions to celebrate from Valentine’s Day to Easter that are right around the corner.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about improving your relationship with your addicted child, explore Carole Bennett’s new book Reclaim Your Life.  Do you have a child struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction?  Visit Time To Get Help our new resource and online community for parents offering expert guidance, support and answers.

Posted by Carole Bennett  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

How Drugs and Alcohol Affect a Family
Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

how drug addiction affects a family

My mom was smart, beautiful, caring – and hiding a secret that was affecting not only herself, but everyone around her.  She used alcohol and sleeping pills to hide her depression. My dad is in recovery – 20 years sober– and tried to help Mom help herself with counseling and AA.  She refused to follow through.

Despite her “happy face,” Mom spiraled lower and everyone around her felt it.  One of the times she was back together with my stepdad Scott, Mom had a crisis.

I was at Dad’s house when my brother called from Scott and Mom’s place, and he was freaking out. Dad and I raced to the house, and could hear Mom screaming before we were in the front door.  It looked like a war zone – there was a steak knife sticking out of the TV screen.  Bookcases and a dresser had fallen down the staircase where Mom had pushed them. 

Dad charged up the stairs, and I jumped bookcases to get to my brother’s room. He unlocked his door, I grabbed him and we raced outside.  We jumped into Dad’s car and sat there, staring at each other.  When Dad came out to the car, he said he and Scott were putting my mom in rehab.  She had run out of excuses.

Within 48-hours of checking in, Mom left the facility.  Dad found a more expensive inpatient treatment.  She stayed 72-hours before sneaking out.  Mom insisted the meltdown with the steak knife in the TV and the furniture thrown down the stairs was a one-time thing, and she was now back in control, and not using pills or drinking. 

Even though Mom tried to hide her addiction, my half-brother Andrew was profoundly affected by it.  As a result, he began using.

I found out Andrew was having a rough time with drugs and alcohol before my parents even knew.  Andrew frequently warned me against trying it, and told me how much it was messing up his life.  It was difficult to have that kind of information — I didn’t say or do anything at first because I didn’t understand the consequences of his actions.

Andrew’s secret finally came out the day I wandered into the house and the whole family was there – Andrew’s dad, Scott, Dad and Mom. His addiction, the intervention were too much for him to handle.    He later told me he was thinking about suicide.

It’s difficult to know exactly what to do or say when a family member is having a problem with drugs and alcohol, or at a point where they’re considering suicide.  I’ve met young people who have horrible relationships with their siblings, and when they get their hands on information they try to blackmail their brother or sister.  That can ruin any chance of ever having a friendship.

My advice is:  If you’re talking to them from a place of real concern, and sincerely wanting to help, you can do a lot of good.  The addict in your life needs a real friend whether they realize it or not.

And, if you’re the one that needs help: Don’t think you’re a freak if you’re struggling with addiction, suicidal thoughts or depression.  Both addictions and suicide rates are rising in this country.  Hold on – and ask for help from a teacher, an adult you trust or a family member.  There are people eager to help you. But first, you have to ask them.

Editor’s Note: We’re happy to report that Andrew is now in recovery and doing very well.  He’s back in school and earning A’s.  It looks like he has his head together, and the future’s looking bright.  If your loved one is struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, please join the community at Time To Get Help and ask questions, read stories and find words of hope.

Posted by Chase Block  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Co-Occurring Disorders, Family History, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more


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

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