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5 Things I Wish I’d Known About Mental Illness and Teens
Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

1. teen mental illnessIt May Not Look Like Mental Illness I was a teenager who wore black, slept a lot and cried often. I ate too much or too little, couldn’t concentrate on my homework and wasn’t interested in a social life. I had no idea that these symptoms, if they last more than a couple of weeks, can signal serious depression.  I  simply thought this was what being a teenager was like. It wasn’t until I was 26 that I had my first “nervous breakdown” and was diagnosed with chronic depression. I was lucky. If I’d turned to drugs or alcohol as a way to solve my problems, I might have been another teenage drug addict or alcoholic, and never have gotten the help I needed. Even so, I didn’t recognize the symptoms in my son until it was too late. He was already doing drugs every day. He wasn’t diagnosed until he was 33.

2. Look for Mental Illness in the Family
Was there an aunt in your family who had a “nervous breakdown” when you were growing up? A grandparent who never spoke to anyone?  A relative who ‘burned out’ at work? A cousin who had to leave college because the stress was too much? A brother who was in trouble because of drinking or partying? These may pointer to underlying mental health issues. Many mental illnesses run in families. If there’s mental illness in yours, then your child’s drug activities may be an attempt to self-medicate the family disease.

3. Get Informed
When I was dealing with my own depression and then my son’s there wasn’t the vast amount of information around that there is today. I had to look for books in the self-help section of the library or bookstore. I felt ashamed that I needed the books, and sure other people were judging me. These days, there is almost too much information around — so pick your sources carefully. The best information on drug addiction and mental health comes from reputable sites like The Partnership at Drugfree.org and the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Parents’ blogs can be helpful too, mainly because they tell you about other parents’ experiences, and may help you realize that you’re not alone in dealing with this.

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Posted by Gabi Coatsworth  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Co-Occurring Disorders, mental illness, Stigma, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more



6 Noteworthy Memoirs About Parenting a Child with an Addiction
Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Certain parenting memoirs help us feel less alone and provide hope that our child’s drug use problem can get better.  If you’re a parent of a child struggling with drugs or alcohol, here are 6 noteworthy books that offer information and advice, and might even give you comfort and strength during this difficult time.

Teens sharing pillsStay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction (2010)
By Libby Cataldi
Stay Close is one mother’s tough, honest, and intimate tale that chronicles her son’s severe drug addiction, as it corroded all relationships from the inside out. It is a story of deep trauma and deep despair, but also of deep hope-and healing.
this riverThis River (2010)
By James Brown
Award-winning author James Brown gained a cult following after chronicling his turbulent childhood and spiraling drug addiction in The Los Angeles Diaries. This River picks up where Brown left off in his first memoir, describing his tenuous relationship with sobriety, telling of agonizing relapses, and tracking his attempts to become a better father.

we all fall downWe All Fall Down (2010)
By Nic Sheff
In his bestselling memoir Tweak, Nic Sheff took readers on an emotionally gripping roller-coaster ride through his days as a crystal meth and heroin addict. Now in this powerful follow-up about his continued efforts to stay clean, Nic writes candidly about eye-opening stays at rehab centers, devastating relapses, and hard-won realizations about what it means to be a young person living with addiction.

Teens sharing pillsMy Daughter’s Addiction: A Thief in the Family – Hardwired for Heroin (2009)
By Marie Minnich
A captivating story of one mother’s journey raising her heroin-addicted daughter. The autobiographical story also chronicles the murder of the author’s mother in 1968; the Youth Culture of the 60s, the author’s experience as a battered wife and the devastating effects on her adult daughter who is a drug addict.

beautiful-boyBeautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction (2009)
By David Sheff
With haunting candor, David Sheff traces his oldest son’s Methamphetamine addiction from the first subtle warning signs, the denial, the attempts at rehab and at last, the way past addiction. He shows his readers that whatever an addicts fate, the rest of the family must care for one another too, lest they become addicted to the addiction.  He shows his readers that whatever an addicts fate, the rest of the family must care for one another too, lest they become addicted to the addiction.

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Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Alcohol, Books about addiction, Co-Occurring Disorders, 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



Moving Away From Enabling
Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The best thing you can do for yourself or any addict you care about is to not enable their drug addiction. Parents can fail in this regard when they are unable to accept a family member’s addiction as a serious problem. With the best of intentions, parents can unknowingly support their teen’s drug use by enabling. As sad as it is for parents to see this; it is equally an enigma to an addict as they find that their mental condition progressively responds only to their cravings. It’s important to do everything you can to stop feeding the lifeline to addiction – it can really save lives.

Too often, young addicts steal — and as a result many parents enable by not holding the young addict accountable for their actions. Often times the thought of jail, shame and the fear of loss paralyzes a family. Those who live with a drug addict and have endured many violations understand a level of madness that can’t be explained. It is a sobering thought to find that jail isn’t more dangerous than life on the streets for a young addict.  A parent’s instinct is to protect their child at all costs, but drug addiction doesn’t rationalize what a second or third chance means. This disease has a course of its own — unless interrupted by an intervention. For many diseases, intervention comes in the form of medicine and care. Cancer doesn’t ask permission to be brutal, neither does addiction.

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Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Co-Occurring Disorders, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more



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: www.nami.org

night_navigation

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



Co-Occurring Disorders
Monday, June 29th, 2009

We live in a society of excess, where street drugs are readily available, so it is not surprising that many teens experiment with drugs. However, more is known now about teenagers who are not only experimenting, but who are self-medicating because they have other disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Dealing with a child who has co-occurring disorders is of course even more difficult. If you are reading this blog, this already means your eyes are open and you’re taking steps to be fully informed.

For me the most challenging part of parenting has been that in my family, substance abuse has been intensified by co-occurring mental illness and a family history of genetic vulnerability. So much more is known now about the brain and chemical imbalances than when my husband and I and our children first began to experience the ravages of both in the early 1960s. Truly, we hadn’t a clue.

Months before my wedding, the man I was to marry, the star athlete and class president I had fallen in love with five years earlier in high school, climbed out onto the ledge of my mother’s fifth-floor New York City apartment, and in a state of drunken bravado, threatened to jump.

Off and on over our fourteen years together and the parenting of two children, he continued to go through episodic periods of binge drinking accompanied by wild behavior and threats of suicide. In 1977, when my children were eleven and thirteen, he did kill himself.

All through these episodes, we always thought of it as a problem with alcohol. It was not until his death, and when I finally sought professional help, that I realized that of course he had a mental illness, most likely a bipolar disorder.

And even though I was now much better informed, I still did not fully understand how vulnerable my children were. It was not until they reached their 20s that one of my children became willing to see his problems in terms of co-occurring disorders. The other son never sought help and ended his life at the age of 28.

When mental illness and suicide are part of a family’s history, the whole question of when to hang on and when to let go becomes much more complicated. Drawing the line when someone is in the midst of a psychotic break is more than a tough call.

Though it is important not to rush into labeling a difficult teenager, not to rush into medication as the answer, parents are wise to become informed about symptoms and seek counsel with highly qualified professionals who can keep an eye on what’s going on, especially if there is some family history of depression or manic behavior.

My husband’s father, a man who majored in psychology in college and was the director of a children’s home in a large city for many years — and who himself carefully monitored bouts of acute anxiety — revealed to me after my husband’s death that when he himself was a boy, he would come home from school hoping his mother had not stuck her head in the oven, as she had threatened to do before he and his sister had set out that morning.

I do not want to end on such a bleak note. Though I am reluctant to steal any more secrets from family members, I do want to say that my son has gone through a long period of recovery and is now, day by day, leading a productive, creative life.

Posted by Ginnah Howard  /  Filed under Co-Occurring Disorders, Family History, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more






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