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Teaching My Daughters to Think and Feel for Themselves
Monday, May 13th, 2013

The other day a friend said to me, “It seems as if all the people I knew in high school who used drugs were the ones who had trouble coping with their feelings.”

As a person in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, I agree with her observation.

I had a great amount of anxiety as a child and as a teenager. My parents were often angry at each other. We frequently ate dinner in silence and, although we didn’t acknowledge it, the tension was high. I didn’t understand how to sort out my anxiety and my feelings became too much to bear. Just thinking about it 25 years later (14 in recovery) brings knots to my stomach.

I didn’t want to be at home with my family. As a result I started going out every night at an early age, even on weeknights, just to get away.

At 14 years old, when I had my first drink, the anxiety went away — albeit temporarily — and I thought I had finally found the answer to my problem. After that, all I wanted to do was drink again.

Now, with children of my own and being in recovery and knowing what I know about drugs and alcohol, I think a lot about the concept of coping.

I often see parents using distraction as a method to calm down their children. But what are we really telling our kids if each time they are upset about something we say, “Oh, let’s go over here, and let’s look at this really fun book!” Or “Here let’s see what’s in the fridge?” This method prevents children from learning how to experience emotions appropriately. We’re setting them up for a lifetime of bottled-up emotions; we’re teaching them to cover up their feelings, rather than to express themselves. My mother’s idea of comforting herself was through shopping and sweets. Naturally, my brother and I picked up similar habits. And believe me, I thoroughly enjoyed the shopping, chocolate and Coca-Cola.

I didn’t have a safe place to express myself and never learned how to process feelings. When I felt bad and anxious it was so painful and so overwhelming.

In early recovery when I no longer had drugs and alcohol to cover my feelings,  it was very difficult to deal with my feelings of sadness and despair. I became very depressed; I would cry endlessly. I didn’t have the ability to get passed my pain and release my emotions.

With the help of the 12 steps, therapy and meditation I have learned how to cope better. Today, when I get sad about something, my reaction is appropriate to the situation at hand.

Nevertheless, parents today never want to see their children sad. We fear that they won’t be able to handle adversity. I fall into that trap even though I consider myself to be a pretty conscious mother. Recently, my 4 year old had a playdate with a young girl who subsequently made her cry twice in the little time she was at our house. My instinct was to ban the girl from our home, and I hoped that my daughter would never want to play with her again at school. I was adamant about it. I didn’t want anyone to hurt my little girl.

But then I thought, “Wait a minute, is this the right way to go?”

I recently watched a video called the Opiate Effect. It is a short film about the Oxycodone problem in Vermont. In the film, Dr. Bob Bick (Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at the Howard Center) says, “If we encourage young people to think, to THINK and FEEL from the earliest age as opposed to believing that we can think for them or feel for them, we will be in a much better position…for young people to make decisions which ultimately will affect the rest of their lives.”

Thinking and feeling for myself was something I did not know how to do until several years into my recovery. Thinking, but foremost FEELING for themselves is something I deeply would like my children to learn. And if I just step out of the way, not necessarily interfering but instead simply giving them gentle guidance along the way, I’m hoping it will be achieved.

So, I’m taking a different approach. If my daughter is angry or sad, I ask her what is going on and try to get her to talk about it. Sometimes I’ll just hold her without saying anything and let her cry until she is done. I never try to distract her with TV, food or shopping like I see so many others do, and like my own parents did.

To me it is clear that teenagers who have learned to cover up their feelings with video games or shopping or food will more easily say yes when someone offers them a joint at a party. And if they are predisposed, and have a lot of unresolved or pent-up emotions and the joint offers them relief, then they will likely want to do it again. And then who knows what will happen.

As they say, I am trying to just take it one step at a time and one day at a time encourage my two little girls to figure out life, thinking and feeling on their own, and hopefully it will make a difference.   Of course, I am just a parent in recovery. I am not an expert nor a PhD, and these are just my observations.

I would really like to hear from parents who have had or currently have children who are suffering from drug and alcohol abuse issues and hear what they have to say on this topic. Does any of this matter? Please comment below and let me know what you did or didn’t do.

 

 

Posted by Pernilla Burke  /  Filed under Addiction, Coping, Enabling, Family History, parenting, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



From Party Girl to Plugged In: My Journey Through Addiction to Recovery
Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

As a little girl, Mom and Dad promised I could be anything I wanted — police officer, teacher, journalist — and that no matter what, my life would be a good one if I followed my heart. Hard work, dedication, honest effort and the Golden Rule were required but, according to my folks, a small price to pay for happiness.

Their words, spoken in earnest to their oldest child, fell across my ears and under my radar as the years passed. Conceptually, I referenced the ideas from time to time, but my world was much too complex to be reduced to old-world, Horatio Alger charm.

I did work hard. I did get the coveted college degree from the prestigious undergrad program. I did land the first job in my field two weeks before the commencement ceremony. I did return to my hometown in triumphant victory as the first of my mother’s kin to brandish the sheepskin of higher education.

Beth Wilson, 22 years old

I landed back in my suburban city, however, anything but free. I was a 23-year-old, full-blown alcoholic with a lot to show for my school career but little recollection of how I got it.

Mom and Dad never warned me about following the family lineage into alcoholism. Maybe they didn’t know that because addiction coursed through both sides of my family, my reckless party-girl college life might lead me across a line into alcoholism.

After all, they didn’t know about the college “accidents” that sent me to the hospital emergency room with severe ankle sprains (from falling while drunk) or the night that friends thought I was having a heart attack after a bad combination of alcohol and over-the-counter Sudafed (I was trying to stay awake to study).

They certainly didn’t know about the countless occasions of school parties with booze and sex, times I can’t remember, times I’m lucky to have survived with no pregnancies or STDs.

Now a college grad, I was a “responsible” adult with a job and rent due each month. But my drinking was escalating to the point where nearly every morning I swore to any and all gods that I would not drink “like that” again. I would try harder not to drink so much and I would make sure I ate something that would coat my stomach, something besides beer nuts and pretzels, so I wouldn’t be so sick and hungover the next day.

If I could only control my drinking! I convinced myself that if I concentrated more on things like being more aware of my surroundings and paying more attention to the descriptions of the cars I got into and watched where we drove, then I wouldn’t find myself in the unhealthy situations that seemed to happen with increasing regularity.

If I were more responsible, I would stop waking up in strange places with strange people, or so I told myself.

However, I was a young alcoholic woman with a career and a bucket full of insecurities. I was desperately trying to fit in while setting myself apart from the crowd. I thought myself intellectually superior to the people with whom I interacted, yet I seldom felt worthy of anyone’s attention. In my mind, I was a big shot traveling the country on an expense account, yet on the inside I felt like I deserved none of it. I worked hard at not letting people really see who I was because I was deathly afraid that if they did, they would wouldn’t like me, and I really needed for them to like me. I desperately needed their approval. Years later, I would realize that my insecurities were covering a thick layer of fear, most likely a fear of rejection that stemmed way back into my childhood.

So I continued to cover my intense loneliness with a party-girl persona. I felt a vague sense of irritation, sort of like when you’re walking on the beach and a small pebble gets lodged in your shoe. You try to continue walking but ultimately end up with a big blister and a hurting foot.

I kept drinking, but a growing restlessness gnawed at me. Instinctively, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what until a God-moment on a spring day in 1991. I was driving to a conference for work, through a small town where an old friend lived.

She had been like a surrogate mother to me when I was growing up, but after she and her family moved away from my hometown, we dropped contact for many years. Something made me stop my car on that day and call her.

She was delighted to hear from me, and we had lunch. As we caught up, I listened to her describe her son’s battle with an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Her son had just been released from a treatment center. I knew him well and wasn’t at all surprised to hear that he was messed up with drugs and alcohol. Because I had partied with him, I figured he would eventually end up with a problem. I had seen him in really bad shape.

My friend — my surrogate mom — planted two seeds in me that day. When she spoke about her son’s behavior and the resulting consequences, I realized with a sudden force that every time I got into trouble, alcohol was involved. That was the mustard seed she planted.

The bigger seed, one more like that inside a peach, was what she said about his spiritual awakening, about how he came to understand that he was powerless over his addiction and that by admitting powerlessness, he was able to embrace a new way of life that included the awareness that God was guiding him to become a better person.

My friend’s son admitted he couldn’t control his life, and with that admission, he gained a new way of living.

I’ll be forever grateful that my old partying buddy connected with a higher power, because his connection led me to mine.

My spiritual connection — what I call being “plugged in” — is my lifeline in this day-to-day crazy world.

Grace led me to sobriety; I haven’t had a drink of alcohol since May 20, 1991.

I’m learning at a turtle’s pace that while I am powerless over my addiction, I can control the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that lead to the decisions I make. And so long as I don’t drink alcohol, I have a much better chance of recognizing the difference between what I can control and what I can’t. Remember all the things I mentioned that my parents failed to warn me about? Turns out I had quite a build-up of resentment toward them. Thankfully, long-term sobriety and an ongoing spiritual connection healed that resentment.

I believe that staying plugged-in to a God current that flows freely and readily whenever I express the willingness to connect has made all the difference to me; it allowed me to heal strained relations with my parents before my mom died in 2010.

Until that time, I think the little girl in me still blamed them for not fully preparing me for adult life. Now I know they did the best they could; family talks about alcoholism and addiction were taboo in the 1970s.

Today’s family culture offers so much more hope for teenagers. While parents still urge their kids to shoot for their dreams, they also season their conversations with realism about the future.

One thing hasn’t changed: Parents still want the best for their children, and kids still want their parents’ approval. Add a good amount of honest conversation about drugs and alcohol, and you have a solid basis for a successful, drug-free future.

To read more stories of recovery or to share your own, please visit the The Hope Share.

Posted by Beth Wilson  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Family members, Forgiveness, parenting, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Uncategorized, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more



Wonder and Worry: Can I Save My Daughters From Drug Addiction?
Thursday, November 15th, 2012

As a parent in recovery, I look at my children’s faces every day and I wonder and worry.

I wonder, with everything I know and everything I’ve learned, will I be able to save them from the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse? I wonder about the “gene” and the fact that I know there are many in both my family and my husbands’ that have it.

I worry about my children’s environment: the drug pushers, the “cool” friends and doctor’s writing careless prescriptions—all out there potentially giving my beautiful, innocent daughters something that could threaten their lives.

I worry about the things I say, the things that happen on the playground at school. I worry about the things that could happen to them emotionally that could somehow predispose them to being receptive to actually trying a prescription drug to get high, and that that one time could be all it takes.

I guess I could wonder and worry about so many other things happening to them, but because I am in recovery myself, this is the one thing that is closest to my mind.

If I tried all of it, why wouldn’t they?

All I can do is hope and pray that if they do try it and they do get hooked, they get help. Maybe it would be the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) just like I did.

AA has changed my life so profoundly and on so many levels. It has put the tools for living and happiness right into the core of my being.Because of it, the black hole exists no longer, and my need to fill it with substances is gone. I have been given the ability to walk through life with faith and hope and trust.

I just hope that I can transmit some of these values and the inner peace I feel to my children and that I do whatever I can to prevent them from using drugs and alcohol. But if they go down the path of addiction, I hope they too will find sobriety and serenity just as I did.

I hope that by teaching them to allow themselves to feel their feelings and to always speak up when something is going on and to try not to hold the emotions in, they will be aided in keeping away from drugs. Maybe teaching them that negative emotions are not bad and should not be discarded or ignored or seen as something to distract ourselves from will be useful. I hope that by saying to them that negative feelings are as important as positive feelings and that in our life’s journey we have to learn to deal with both sides of the coin.

I wonder if any of this will help.

And I wonder, are there other parents in recovery out there that are thinking about the same things? If so, please share.

Posted by Pernilla Burke  /  Filed under Family History, Family members, parenting, Recovery  /  Comments: more



Part I: Forgiveness: My Struggles to Make Amends with Myself and My Addict
Thursday, September 29th, 2011

ForgivenessDealing with the aftermath of my stepfather’s drunken escapades in my childhood became as common as getting out of bed in the morning. My family thought it was “normal” to scream at each other, to throw dishes across the room, and to pretend it didn’t hurt when these type of things happened. My mother seemed as if she had forgiven my stepfather’s behavior every single day only to have it occur again the very same day. My middle brother was a drug addict at this time also. He would bully my grandmother into giving him every last dime of her life savings, would rob our home — the home he lived in — and scream at all of us when we refused to let him in the house. He even stole from my piggy bank when I was 10-years-old.  Addicts have one purpose — to get more drugs, period. In this case too, my mother seemed to want to forget and continue to enable him.   It was an endless cycle.

When you are a small child growing up in a home plagued with addiction you get a very distorted picture of what it means to forgive. We do whatever is necessary to survive the emotional rollercoaster we are on, while resentment builds inside of us. When we are old enough to understand the addiction we just want to forget everything that ever happened. It would be great if I could wave a magic wand and erase all those terrible memories. But I have had to live with them.

They have altered my ability to trust, to believe in others, to feel worthy of love, and to forgive. I was so angry at the people I should have loved the most. I hated my stepfather for his embarrassing and painful displays of drunkenness. I hated my brother for being so weak and conniving. I hated my mother for not being strong enough to protect me from them. As an adult, I was isolated and angry. I ran away from my family because I wanted to be the complete opposite of them. I wanted to attract good.

Let me tell you that you can run to the ends of the earth and it will never be far enough to avoid yourself. The only true way to heal from your loved one’s addiction is to forgive — forgive the person, forgive those affected by the person, but most of all you have to forgive yourself. It took me over thirty-five years to truly begin forgiving. Sure I had said hundreds of times before that I was over all of the negativity, but I hadn’t really learned how.

Have you forgiven yourself and your loved one with a drug addiction?  Share your story of forgiveness below.

Read Part II of my blog post next week to learn to how I forgave myself and those around me.

Related Links:
Acceptance: Regaining Trust and Rebuilding the Family Unit
Dealing with Feelings: 5 Ways I Cope with My Young Adult’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Moving Away From Enabling
Time to Get Help

Posted by Michelle A. Woycitzky  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Enabling, Family History, Forgiveness  /  Comments: more



Taking Action Against My Son’s Drug Problem
Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Father and teenage sonHow could a recovering alcoholic and addict possibly fail to recognize the symptoms of drug abuse in his own teenager?   Stupidity?  Blindness?  I’d have to say both, combined with a powerful, potentially deadly dose of trust.

In 8th grade, my son was part of the Gifted Students Program.  One year later, he nearly failed his freshman year.  But there were what my wife, Paula, and I mistakenly considered, mitigating circumstances.

The summer prior to attending high school, he suffered a bout of mononucleosis, and the doctor warned us that the illness could reoccur.  He seemed to have fully rebounded in time to attend classes, and even to compete on the high-school wrestling team. But in a matter of months he started coming home exhausted, going directly to his bedroom, and “sleeping,” or more accurately “passing out.”  He looked pale, with dark circles under his eyes, and he lost his appetite and grew skinny.

All signs and symptoms of drug abuse.  But did we see it?  No.  He also quit wrestling.  A teen withdrawing from sports and activities they used to love is also another big red flag.  And we completely missed it.

Instead we brought him back to the doctor, thinking the mononucleosis had returned.  His tests came back negative, including another for the closely related Epstein-Barr virus.

Now let me cut to the chase.

In the first week of his sophomore year, he was caught ditching class, four days out of eight in World History, and it’s then that my wife and I finally put it together.  We confronted him as soon as he came home that day.

“Are you using drugs?”

“No.”

“Look me in the eye,” I said, “and tell me you’re not getting high.”

Fortunately he’s not much of a liar, and he could only glance up at me, then he lowered his eyes.  But the lie came anyway.

“No,” he said.  “I don’t use drugs.  I’ve just been sick.”

Our biggest mistake was in trusting him.  But we trusted him because we love him and because he had never lied to us before.  Little lies?  Sure.  What kid hasn’t?  A big lie, like drug use?  No.  Not to our knowledge.  We were in denial and wanted to believe him. That wanting to trust, that need, that desire can be lethal.

Given my own dark past, I put the word out on him among the recovering addicts I know.

A simple question:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by James Brown  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Ecstasy, Family History, Family members, getting help, Treatment, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more



Instructions on the Use of Alcohol, an Excerpt from James Brown’sThis River
Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

Editor’s Note: We’re excited to welcome back award-winning author James Brown to the Intervene community.  Earlier this month James released his latest book This River, a memoir providing an honest portrait of an addict and his new struggles with sobriety, relapse  and becoming a better father.  This book provides a great opportunity for discussion with other parents as well as with your child suffering with an addiction.  We are giving away two free copies of This River to two lucky commenters — please see the end of this post for details.

In many ways, This River: A Memoir, is a follow up to my last memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries, which gained a strong following among many young people, at least in part because the material revolves around drug and alcohol abuseThis River picks up where my last left off, describing my once tenuous relationship with sobriety, telling of agonizing relapses, and tracing my attempts to become a better father.  It has been considered by some a heartbreaking and at times uplifting tale of my battles, peeking into my former life as an addict and alcoholic, and detailing my subsequent ascent to sobriety and fight for redemption. 

I wrote This River for many of the same reasons I wrote The Los Angeles Diaries.  I felt compelled to tell the truth about my life, and how drugs and alcohol destroyed so much of it, leaving me lost and alienated from those whom I most loved, my wife and children.  I certainly don’t glamorize or romanticize drugs and alcohol, and I like to believe that some people who have struggled with addiction, especially those with their whole lives still ahead of them, have come to respect my work for telling it like it is. I’ve been asked by dozens of colleges where, to my delight, my book has been used as a class text, and many times I’ve been approached afterward by a student with his or her own story to share, and thanking me for sharing mine.  Not only is that a tremendous, wonderful honor, but it makes spending all those long hours alone in a room writing my memoirs worth every second.

A brief excerpt from This River from a piece titled “Instructions on the Use of Alcohol”:

Part I

You’re young, maybe 9 or 10, and your parents are throwing a party.  All the adults are laughing and talking too loudly, in general having a good time, and you put two and two together.  What makes them happy comes out of those bottles on the kitchen counter.

The brown ones, you learn soon enough, contain whiskey and scotch.  The clear ones hold vodka and gin and that odd-shaped bottle with the long neck, something called Midori, contains a thick, syrupy green liquid.  That’s the one that intrigues you most, and when the adults aren’t looking you pour yourself a glass.  You sneak it into your room.  You lock the door.  At first you sniff at it, and because it doesn’t smell so good you pinch your nostrils shut before you take a swallow.

It burns the back of your throat.  It makes your eyes water.  You shake your head, and for a few minutes, until the alcohol takes effect, you can’t understand how anyone in their right mind could drink this stuff.  But then a tingling sensation begins to spread through your chest, your face is warm and flushed, and you’re suddenly light headed.  You feel good, you feel great.  It’s as if you’ve made a major discovery, a real inroad to the secret of a good life, and it only makes sense that if one drink has this effect on you that a second will make you feel even better.  You finish the glass and sneak another.  You repeat this action several more times.

In the morning, you wake with a miserable headache, you’re nauseous, too, and right then and there you swear never again to so much as look at a bottle of booze.  But what the seasoned drinker knows that the apprentice does not is that those of us predisposed to alcoholism are hardwired to quickly forget our unfortunate drinking experiences.  Next time you get the chance, you’ll do the same thing all over again.  Drunk, you find yourself smarter and funnier and stronger and braver and even better looking. 

For the budding alcoholic, booze seems to do more for you than it does for others, and your only regret, at least to date, is that you didn’t come across this miracle potion sooner.

Part II

You’re older now, maybe 15 or 16, and what currently interests you is marijuana and the intrigue that surrounds it.  You enjoy scoring weed behind the high school bleachers.  You enjoy showing off to your friends how well you can roll a joint, and because the dope world has its own language, all the slang and clever code words, you feel special when you speak it. 

 Then one day you try to connect with that kid behind the bleachers, the guy with all the Bob Marley stickers on his notebook, and it isn’t happening.
 “It’s bone-dry out there,” he says.  “Drought season, man.”

 But he does have something else, if you’re interested, this stuff he calls blow.  “It’s good shit,” he tells you. 

 And as it happens with your first drink, so it is with the coke.  It makes you feel great.  It makes you stronger and smarter and braver and even better looking, and you dismiss those lies you’ve heard about coke being addicting.  Getting hooked is for weaklings, for losers, though you can see how the stuff might drain your bank account, since the rush is so short, and the more you use, the more it takes to get high. 

For the budding addict, the supply is never enough, but your own regret, at least to date, is that you didn’t come across this miracle potion sooner.

To read more from James Brown, read his previous post When It Comes to Addiction, There are No Simple Answers.

WIN a free copy of This River, a new memoir by award-winning author James Brown.  HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment responding to James’ post with a valid e-mail address and two winners will be chosen at random at the end of this giveaway.  This giveaway ends Friday April 22 @ 5PM EST. US only.

Posted by James Brown  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Cocaine, Family History, Marijuana, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: more



A Trip Inside The Mind Of An Addicted Teen
Friday, March 11th, 2011

I saw and experienced more than I was able to handle as a child. My father was an alcoholic which resulted in chaos in our family including physical and verbal abuse in my parents’ marriage. By the time I was a teenager I was lonely, hurt, and angry. All of which I believe played a huge role in why I developed poor decision making skills and no self-worth I couldn’t count on my father to play an active part in my life which left me with a void that I didn’t know how to fill.

I was five-years-old when my parents divorced. My mother was a hard-working single mom who worked an insane amount of hours in order to support the family. This left me with a lot of unsupervised time by myself. I lacked structure and activities. I never received any encouragement to try out for sports or after school activities, and because of this,  I never really thought that I could do it. I think that without a parent’s support and encouragement it’s hard for a teen to magically set up structure for themselves. Had I experienced the gentle nudges of my parents to get out there and spread my wings and try new things, I think I would have been able to learn how to build confidence, friendships, team work and good decision-making skills.

But that was not my reality. Reality was that I fell in with the wrong crowd. I made some bad choices with friends and ultimately became a follower. Since I didn’t have much to keep me busy after school or on the weekends, I found myself looking for stimulation in all the wrong places. As I met more people who partied, the amount of drugs and alcohol that I had access to grew. Before I knew it, all I cared about was how I was going to get high. I blamed my mom because she was the one who was there. The drugs were finally filling the void that my parents left. I figured that one day I would grow up and put all the partying behind me. Before that could happen I found myself in a place where I couldn’t stop using on my own.

My mom was angry and let me know how much I was letting her down but I didn’t know how to stop and I couldn’t picture my life without the drugs. I became mean and sneaky to protect my using at any cost. Ultimately, we lost all trust in each other. I was angry at her because it seemed as if, before my using inconvenienced her life, I was not important to her. She wanted so badly for me to change my behavior and I wanted so badly for our family life to have turned out differently. But neither of us knew how to fix it and I couldn’t get past playing the victim.

The one thing about my mom was that she did not give up. If it wasn’t for that fight in her I don’t know if I would have ever gotten sober on my own. I desperately needed treatment to fight my addiction, but also to help me process all the baggage that I had been carrying around for years. Professionals were able to help us heal together. They were able to help my mom learn how to set boundaries, how to push me when I needed it, communicate with an angry teenager and become my biggest cheerleader.

We didn’t take the route that most mothers and daughters take in life, but we are proof that addiction doesn’t have to tear a family apart forever.

Posted by Lauren King  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Finding Treatment, Recovery, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment, Warning Signs  /  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



My Own Daughter’s Relapse
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

We’re excited to introduce new blogger Carole Bennett, MA to the community!  Carole is author of the new book “Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcohol/Addict” (www.reclaimyourlifebook.com) and the founder of Family Recovery Solutions, a counseling center for family and friends of loved ones with a drug or alcohol problem.  She is the mother of 21-year-old “Lucy.”

I want to share something very personal with you; my own daughter’s relapse.  I doubt if I would be the complete clinician if I did not walk in some of your shoes, share the same trials and tribulations, victories and successes.  So, I’m hopeful that you won’t be offended if I share my recent heartache and despair with you.

My daughter (let’s call her Lucy) was and is a beautiful woman of 21.  Though every mother thinks their child is beautiful, Lucy really is.  Almost 6 feet tall, a knockout figure, dark straight hair, olive skin and almond shaped smoldering eyes.  She could have easily been a model.  I can say this, as she is adopted, so I had nothing to do with her amazing looks.  However, this beautiful young lady is covered with tattoos scattered about her body with little or no thought as to what she is permanently inking.  One looks like a car engine and is supposed to be a music box; another is a musician that I don’t think she has ever heard of and whose hair covers most of his face.  Her ear lobes sport gages that are so big, the middle part of a sugar ice cream cone would fit comfortably through it.

Though I’m not thrilled that Lucy has decided to permanently use her body as a grease board, it does not make me love her any less.

Let me take a paragraph or two to give you a little history.  As I said, Lucy was adopted and from an early age started pulling out her hair.  Defiant toward teachers and combative at every turn toward her father and me, Lucy would fly into uncontrollable temper tantrums. By the time the 7th grade rolled around, Lucy could not attend the public school system and was sent to alternative schools in and out of California that specialized in behavioral issues.  I honestly don’t know when the dabbling into drugs took effect, but dabbling quickly turned into addiction.  Lucy became a garbage pail for any drug from acid to mushrooms to heroin.  Cutting and anorexic type behavior became the norm as well.

Lucy managed to graduate from high school and opted to live with her birth grandparents in Oregon.  Our communication at that time was tense and volatile and I had no idea if she was clean and sober or continuing with her addiction.  Lucy made it clear that she had no interest in considering any of my suggestions   for continued education or career choices.

After a few years of doing little but lying on the couch, Lucy moved to Los Angeles and reconnected with some family members professing that she needed a fresh beginning for her life.  Lucy swore that she was clean and sober, and these family members embraced her with open arms.  Sadly, sobriety was the last thing on her mind, and so started the revolving door of rehabs and sober living housing.

Gratefully, somewhere along the way, Lucy did embrace a clean and sober life style.  She attended AA meetings regularly, had a sponsor, and got a job and her own apartment.  On her first year birthday of sobriety, we gathered like a flock of geese holding wads of Kleenex as we watched our loved one receive her one year chip.  Finally, after all these years, maybe, just maybe Lucy might be on her way to experiencing the goodness that a sober lifestyle has to offer and we in turn could take a long awaited sigh of relief. That was 14 months ago.

Sadly and unfortunately many alcoholic/addicts become complacent about their recovery.  They foolishly think they can start to pick and chose their recovery path believing that they now have learned when to cut off their alcohol intake, or because their drug of choice was alcohol, one line of coke is no big deal. The recovering alcoholic/addict knows that this thinking is “b.s.”, but they forge ahead anyway.

So was true with my dear Lucy. She strongly stated that she hadn’t relapsed as smoking a joint 3 times a day had nothing to do with substance abuse.  However, that was just the beginning of the downward spiral. Lately when I see her, she is unfocused, easily agitated, defensive and dirty. This last week, a planned family dinner witnessed Lucy making several trips to the bathroom.  Was she throwing up her dinner, and back to the days of bingeing and purging, getting high or both?  Regardless, it was clear that her clean and sober days were over.

I have spent many sleepless nights and shed buckets of tears over my daughter’s disease and the devil that has her as a captive audience. But, there is nothing I can do, as she has not sought help and my involvement (for the umpteenth time) has more often than not proven futile.  I am left with prayer.  Praying that her “higher power” will take care of her and that hopefully one day, like once before, she will pick herself up from the ashes and scratch and claw her way back to a healthy lifestyle.

I share this story with you, so if you have experienced something similar, you will know that you are not alone.  There seems to be strength in numbers, even if you don’t know the person next to you. I am a professional counselor – an expert in my field, yet I don’t have the answers for my child, or can show her that her decisions are poor ones.  Instead my heart breaks with the same pain, sadness and fear that any loving parent has when their child is heading 100 miles an hour for a brick wall.

Thank you for allowing me to open up my heart and soul to a caring population of family members and friends who travel the same path as so many of us do on a daily basis.

Editor’s Note:  If you’re a parent of a child struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, please visit Time To Get Help — a new online resource and community from The Partnership at Drugfree.org.

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



Coping With Family Tragedies: Divorce, Addiction & Suicide
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Teenager Chase Block faced a lot at an early age – his parent’s divorce, his mother’s drug addiction and later, her tragic suicide. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Chase wrote a book about his experiences in hopes of helping other teens. While his book offers practical, mature, no-nonsense advice for young people, it has something for parents, too — a unique window into the mind of today’s teens.  For a chance to win a copy of his book Chasing Happiness, please see the end of this post for details.

I was a 13-year-old kid growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, when I decided I wanted to help other kids whose parents were divorcing.  My own folks split when I was 6, and then had other relationships, marriages and divorces. I felt I could help my friends learn what to expect when they were facing similar family shifts.

I decided to write a book of practical tips and advice on how to survive divorce – from a kid’s perspective. The day before I actually began working with an editor on the book, my mom killed herself.

My beautiful, wonderful mom, who was dearly loved by everyone, lost her decades-long battle with mental illness, an addiction to pills, and alcoholism. She took her own life eight years after she and my dad split up. I was shocked and confused – but I didn’t want to forget the book. As horrible as I felt, I knew other kids would go through this stuff too, and maybe my story could help them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Chase Block  /  Filed under Addiction, Family History, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more






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