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6 Things My Husband and I Did to Save Our Marriage
Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Save your marriageMiraculously, my husband Matt and I have been married for 26 years.  We are raising the last of our 4 kids together and our marriage has survived some significant hits through the years.

In our early years, there was a physical injury that resulted in the loss of Matt’s career and financial calamity, we lost a baby due to a second trimester miscarriage, we have both lost our fathers in their old age and we have faced the disease of addiction as it insidiously wound its way through our family unit.

Dealing with our daughter’s addiction was by far the most difficult and the most painful thing we have had to navigate together as a couple. In our early years, we were both sort of shell shocked and in my mind I can see the two of us just standing there with our mouths open, asking each other, “What just happened?”  It was not good. Neither one of us could believe that one of our kids, to whom we had devoted our adult lives, would have, or could have, headed off in this direction.  We lived in denial for a long time.

There was a lot of frantic hand wringing and tears, as we tried to figure out what to do.  What was normal experimentation and what was really a problem? Our biggest obstacle was that we were not in agreement on how to handle anything. I was devastated and showed it through my endless crying and obsessing. Matt was trying to calm me down so I wasn’t a hindrance to the process of trying to figure out how big of a problem this really was and how we should proceed.

Eventually, after several years and many Al-anon meetings, we were able to build a cohesive team who can now face, at least on most days, the challenges that life brings to us in a healthier and more constructive fashion.

Here are some of the things we learned:

1.) Accept Each Other. We have to learn how to accept each other as we are. This means understanding that we are doing the very best we know how to do, and most of all, that our goals are the same and we have different ways of coping — to keep our daughter alive long enough to find a healthy recovery. It set us both free to process our thoughts with each other without the fear of criticism or verbal attack. After we accepted each other, we began to acknowledge that we are a team and no one on earth has our child’s best interest at heart the way the two of us do.

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Posted by Annette  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Family members, getting help, Marriage, Shame  /  Comments: more

A Mother’s Thoughts on Blame
Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

parents fightingMy journal entry: I want to blame someone – anyone - for my son’s addiction. I was sure that my son’s behavior, his affliction, was his father’s fault. Or mine. I’ve worn the yolk of guilt for years – better my fault than his. The truth is that I still have no one to blame because I’m sure there is no one to blame. After more than ten years and continual heartbreaks, I’ve come to realize his addiction is just that. Folks in the field of drug treatment call it an allergy. He has the allergy and we are all affected.

My reflection today on my entry above: Blame. I wanted to put my pain at someone else’s feet. I wanted to scream, “It’s your fault and look what happened to my son!” I spent a lot of time blaming his friends, drug dealers and even myself.

When I finally quit trying to assign blame and decided to deal with the addiction, I was able to help my son and our family. Whatever the reason for the addiction, Jeff had it. I started to educate myself about addiction. I used my time for better things than blame.

Today’s Promise: I will not blame myself or anyone else. When I had cancer, I blamed no one and fought the cancer. My son is addicted and he must fight. There is no room for blame.

Related Links
Teen Drug Addiction: When Parents Blame Themselves
A Mother’s Love and Hate for Her Addicted Son

Posted by Libby Cataldi  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Shame  /  Comments: more

The Stigma of Drug Addiction
Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

One of the biggest barriers to patients getting help is the stigma of addiction. The stigma is so pervasive that many family members also resist seeking help for a loved one and for themselves out of fear of discrimination, shame from feeling like a failure or embarrassment from being judged by others.  This happens too often resulting in too many families destroyed.

Addiction affects many individuals and families.  But, it doesn’t have to be this way.  And it begins with sharing our stories, better public education and a broader sense of acceptance of addiction as a treatable disease (similar to diabetes, heart disease, etc.).

Read what these five parents had to say about the stigma of addiction:

this river

Susan: I have felt shame about having a child who is an addict. It’s one of the toughest emotions I’ve had to deal with. The ignorance of others; neighbors, friends, family, etc., is frustrating and can make you feel bad about yourself. I’ve found that reading the Intervene blog and going to Alanon meetings have been a big help.

Colleen: Family members and friends do not understand. They try, but society and media have them convinced that there is something amoral or weak about addicts. I get asked,”Why would he do this to you?” “Why do you allow him to live this way?” I am perceived as a bad parent by many, and I have been completely torn apart by some neighbors on a very public social network. My son is considered by many to just be a problem that society doesn’t need. I tell my friends and family, “It was his choice to try heroin the first time. That was his very bad choice. After that, he had no choice.” No one would choose death or jail if it wasn’t a disease. Anyone who can’t see that, well, they are the problem.

Ron: We spent years hiding from our son’s addiction. We denied it, we were ashamed of it, we tried protecting him from it, if we could have disappeared we would have. That strategy served no one well.

When we were able to overcome our shame we were finally able to take the first steps forward in helping ourselves and being in a place to help him when the time comes. We also began to realize that when people ask about our son it was because they cared about us and they cared about him. It isn’t fair to shut out these people that care for us because we are ashamed and embarrassed. I actually wrote a posting for The Partnership about overcoming your shame.

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Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Shame, Stigma, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

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

Binge Drinking: Dying For Four Loko
Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

As I was taking attendance in my Intro to Psych class last Friday morning, I noticed that Dana* was absent.  Dana, one of my star students, was scheduled to make a presentation on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance), a topic of her choosing to satisfy one of the course requirements.  I was surprised that she did not show up, or at least email to say that she would not make it for whatever reason. 

On Monday morning, Dana walked through the door of my classroom looking a little wan.  After my lecture, she came up to me and told me that she had missed class on Friday because she spent the morning in the hospital having her stomach pumped – a casualty of Four Loko.  As a mother of two who has dealt with the challenges of my own son’s drug problem, very little shocks me when it comes to what college students do to experiment. But even I was a bit surprised when I heard Dana, one of my best and brightest, was experimenting without fully understanding the short-term and long-term effects of her decisions. 

Four Loko, also known as “blackout in a can,” is a caffeinated, alcoholic, malt beverage that comes in a variety of flavors including fruit punch, grape and watermelon, and sold alongside non-alcoholic beverages.  The danger of Four Loko is the combination of alcohol, a depressant, and caffeine, a stimulant.  The caffeine helps the person feel more alert and lessens the sense of being drunk, so a person often consumes more alcohol than he or she would otherwise. 

Dana said she wanted to “experiment” with alcohol after Midnight Madness on campus and decided to try Four Loko mixed with Vodka.  It wasn’t long before her friends noticed that she wasn’t functioning very well. They asked her to pick up a piece of paper on the floor and when she attempted to do so, she fell flat on her face.  Dana doesn’t remember much of what happened after that, except that when she came to, she still didn’t feel well.  Finally, a friend called for help and she was taken by ambulance to the hospital where she was treated for alcohol poisoning.

Dana asked me if she could change her research topic to binge drinking on college campuses because of her personal experience.  She wanted to convey to her classmates just how deadly drinking can be, and that had it not been for the intervention of her friends, we would be attending her funeral, not listening to her presentation.  I readily agreed, hoping that her voice would make a difference where mine had not. 

I lectured about binge drinking a few weeks earlier – I had hoped that it would be engaging, informative and persuasive.  The only point that I think may have stuck was asking my students not to leave an inebriated student alone to “sleep it off” because of the risk of respiratory failure or choking on one’s own vomit.  Maybe, just maybe, Dana is alive because one person took those words to heart.

The controversy over Four Loko continues.  Just this this past weekend, New York’s Senator Chuck Schumer called for a ban on Four Loko in New York because of the many stories like Dana’s.  States like Michigan and Oklahoma have already banned the drink because of its deadly consequences on college campuses.  Regardless of its legal status, I hope students, parents and educators alike can spread the message that it is not worth dying for Four Loko.

*Name has been changed for this article.

Posted by Pat Aussem  /  Filed under Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Denial  /  Comments: more

Acceptance Doesn’t Mean Condoning a Loved One’s Addiction
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

It is difficult to recognize what acceptance is in this context. I went through this with my family for the past two decades – going back and forth about what it mean to accept that my child has a problem with drugs.

The initial reaction to drug abuse is often resistance and disgust. Parents and teens can dance a pattern of cause, effect and reaction; again and again, not realizing what they are dealing with until it is too late. In doing this, we lose opportunities for early intervention [download the Intervention e-Book]. We are too eager to believe our kid’s half-hearted contrition’s and resume the illusion of “normalcy.”

That’s the trap.  It is important to notice behavior in a teen and consider drug tests (Note: While home drug tests can be unreliable, having a doctor perform a drug test can be a helpful tool; Although be aware that teens find all sorts of ways to beat these tests and even professional tests can be inaccurate) to determine if a positive result should lead to intervention. If the result is oxy’s, heroin, meth, or anything like that, then, YES!  Accept it and map out some solutions. And in the process, don’t forget to take care of yourself.

Unfortunately, our communities offer too little assistance and are quick to toss young addicts in jail for their petty drug-related crimes. Drug addiction in anyone’s family is a big cross to bear and helping an addict is not an easy path. Acceptance helps.

Acceptance and courage are old attributes. In life, we all get a chance to test these qualities; like the farmer watching his crops flood alongside an overflowing river.  His first reaction is denial! After accepting the urgency of the condition, the farmer would build sandbag levees. That is acceptance and transformation of agony into  courage and action. A parent building the levees of preparation for intervention or treatment for a teen bitten by addiction is like stepping into a vision that recovery and redemption are entirely possible. Acceptance in that context does not mean condoning drug addiction.

A parent can be tempted to believe that their child has ruined his life, but that person still needs to be accepted and feel hope. Addiction has a path of its own, and can trump what you do, so be prepared.

Have a plan without feeling a need to force it (download the Treatment e-Book). Look hard into the condition you are faced with. Be intentional, but don’t try and be God. When an opportunity arises, you will be ready to take action.

Even with all the money or support in the world, it simply is not a parent’s sole responsibility to solve this problem for their child; your loved one has to choose recovery and believe they can succeed.  At the end of the day, we are often left feeling powerless, but that doesn’t equal “giving up” or “rejecting an ugly condition”; it is a stark recognition of what one does not control. That is what acceptance feels like.

Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Finding Treatment, Recovery & Relapse, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Behind Closed Doors: Is Drug Addiction a Secret Worth Keeping?
Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Secrets.  What should we do about the secrets we keep?  Many people who have loved ones that are drug addicts and alcoholics consider addiction a secret to be kept. 

To some, the topic is even taboo.  What does this do to our hearts and souls? 

Are we worried about being judged by those who may even be keeping the same secret? 

Are we embarrassed because we think we are to blame for our loved ones bad choices?  Everyone makes bad choices in their lives, it is called being human. 

Are we worried that our loved ones might end up in jail or dead if we reveal our secret?  Certainly we have no control over wherever they end up — good or bad.

Are we afraid that they will not love us if we share the secret?  They ultimately love their drug of choice first and foremost and in their own way love us, too. 

The truth is, they are too busy to care whether their drug addiction is a secret or not.

Yes, we can go on and on here.  The point is we should just focus on what this secret is doing to us and what it might be like if we didn’t keep it.  I can tell you that, for me, keeping this a secret was killing me.  As soon as I decided to share the secret, it allowed others to share their secret, too.  It was a relief for many of us.  Yes, we were still judged by some, but I considered that their problem, not mine.  One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein.  He said, “What you think of me is none of my business.”  I try to remind myself of this often.

So, think about this:  the statistics show that there are millions of people all over the world who have addicted loved ones, so we really aren’t alone.  Supporting each other is one step to making this all bearable and, I think, a leap to a better life amidst chaos. How do we support each other if we are all keeping our secret?

Enjoy the day.  That’s why we have it!

Editor’s Note: To learn more about about how addiction is a brain disease, please visit our understanding addiction article.  Loved ones with drug addiction do get better, please visit Life After for inspirational stories of hope and recovery.

Posted by Denise Krochta  /  Filed under Addiction, Denial, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Addicted to Our Drug Addict
Monday, May 10th, 2010

Although I have always hesitated to be an advocate for anything because perspectives often change over time, I do consider myself now an advocate for living the best life I can.  This means acknowledging the fact that no one has control over the choices I make but myself.  I also acknowledge the fact that we don’t always have control over what happens in our lives.  But what we do have control over is what we do with what happens to us.

So, that being said, I have been thinking a lot about  the people whose lives are still completely consumed by the bad choices of their drug addicted loved ones.  I’ve learned from my own experience that waiting for the drug addict to miraculously begin making good choices is hopeless.  Until I became proactive and slowly began to change myself, things were always the same — full of drama.

At the end of the day, we all know our time on Earth is short.   There is no guarantee that any of us will still be alive tomorrow, or even the next minute.  Do we want to spend the remainder of our lives dictated by someone else’s bad choices?  Yes, we believe that we are responsible for the bad choices our children make and feel responsible to make things right.  And just how long are we going to believe this?  I know parents whose children are in their 30s and 40s and still believe that it is their responsibility to make things right!

In order to move forward, I removed the concept of “blame”.  It is a great crutch to rely on and gets us nowhere. When the responsibility is moved to the person making the bad choices, it changes the

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Posted by Denise Krochta  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial  /  Comments: more

My Son’s Addiction: What Is vs. What Ought To Be
Monday, March 15th, 2010

Most of us live in two worlds: the world of what is and the world of ought to be. This is not an issue that only parents of addicts face — this is a reality of most everyone. For many, residing in two worlds at the same time causes great frustration and anger. There are some that fail to even recognize that there is a difference, they spend their lives trying to mold their existing reality into a life of what ought to be.

The problem as a parent of an addict is living in the world of ought to be disrupts your perspective to what is happening with your son or daughter that is an addict. The world of ought to be continually puts us in a place where it is impossible to help our addict. It causes frustration and anger with the addict, the world and ourselves. Ought to be causes us to lose our grasp on the reality of our situation. We are the parents of an addict; this is the reality we cannot avoid. All of the what ifs, and should haves mean nothing when you are trying to help a child who is addicted.

An addict lives their life in the world of what is minute to minute. The pain of addiction, the worry of getting their next fix, a life without purpose, this is the world of reality for an addict – the world of what is.

As parents of an addict, living in the world of ought to be gives us permission to do things that hurt our addict and perpetuate their addiction. Ought to be allows us to enable our addict. Ought to be allows us to excuse our addict’s behavior. Ought to be distorts our thinking and our reality. Inside my child is a good kid they just have this addiction problem, so we ought to be treating them as a good kid and everything will work its way through. If we do that then they ought to see the problem and they will stop. I have fallen into that trap so many times.

Living in the world of what is forces me to see the situation as it is and not the way I wish it to be. When I am living in the world of what is I am an effective helper for my addict. Recognizing the truths of what is helps me to stop enabling and forces me to deal not just with my son as I want him to be, but to recognize what truly is the reality of my addicted child’s life. Without that perspective, I cannot relate to my addict’s pain and I cannot help myself.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Enabling, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Help Your Child by Overcoming Your Shame
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

When you first discover that your child is addicted to drugs your heart breaks and your stomach churns. What is happening, what did we do wrong?

Our reaction is very personal. As parents we take immediate ownership of this situation. We refuse to see this problem as it is, an addiction. We make excuses, we develop stories and, of course, we make plans to immediately correct this problem; all in an effort to control the situation. We look for someone to blame. Little do we know that this is an issue unlike anything we have ever experienced.

Addiction is not an accepted illness for many in our society uneducated about this disease. For too many people addiction continues to carry the stigma of a weakness of character. As parents of an addict not exposed to addiction we carried that stigma along with the guilt of our own questionable parenting skills. We cling to the belief that if our child would only make a choice not to use again; then this nightmare would be over and everything could go back to normal.

Parenting an addict is not something that is to be done alone. It is not something that should be done alone. This is a disease that touches all of those that love an addict or even casually come in contact with an addict.

As parents we hid what was going on with our son. We wallowed in self pity. We searched the internet for solutions, we read books and articles, no matter how much we searched and tried nothing seemed to work. Our son continued to use and we experienced more stress and more shame.

Finally in desperation it is off to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. It’s nearly impossible to say the word. As parents, we stumble, we hedge, we mutter, my son uses drugs. ADDICT: what makes it so hard to say, what makes it so hard to admit? As long as addiction carries a stigma of shame the healing for this disease will not begin for either the addict or the loved one of the addict.

My son is an addict. This statement is freedom but it is not free. To make this statement there is tears, there is heartache and there is a realization that my son is afflicted with a disease in which to date there is no cure.

By opening your life and admission to others you allow others to help you and your child. Something I have found to be absolutely true; those people that love you before your admission will continue to love you when you are able to open yourself up for help. In fact, by opening up I have found wonderful friends struggling with the same issue. Without their support and the support of our family I know we would not be in the position we are in today with our son.

The fact is, if we as individuals and even as a nation continue to treat addiction as our “dirty little secret” and not recognizie it as what it truly is, then we will forever struggle to provide the treatment an addict needs for his or her disease.

My name is Ron and my son is an addict.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more


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