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Renowned Psychiatrist Dr. John Sharp on Addiction, the Teen Brain and Early Intervention
Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

We’re thrilled to share the following video featuring Dr. John Sharp, a renowned psychiatrist, bestselling author and faculty member at both the Harvard Medical School and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

In this video, shot by Clio award-winning director Lori Hoeft, Sharp discusses the genetics of addiction, the developing teen brain and the importance of early intervention.

Sharp encourages parents to take action early. “Your role is critical,” he says. “You can influence the behavior of your loved one. You want to continuously let him or her know how much you care and what your support can mean.”

Learn more about the teen brain and the steps you can take if you think or know your child is drinking or using drugs. For guidance, call our Toll-Free Parent Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373) or visit Time To Get Help.

Want to hear more from Dr. John Sharp? Keep an eye out for his feature article on Join Together, coming out this summer.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, Family members, parenting, Uncategorized  /  Comments: 0



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



Kind Love vs. Tough Love – What’s A Parent To Do? A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part I
Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013


Maia Szalavitz is an award-winning journalist who covers the addiction field, health, science and public policy. She is co-author (with leading child trauma expert Bruce D. Perry, MD, PhD) of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Ms. Szalavitz about her work. Following is the first in a four-part series. Here, Ms. Szalavitz shares her insights into how parents can better deal with their teens’ and young adults’ drug and alcohol abuse problems.

***

JERRY OTERO: In your latest book, Born for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential — and Endangered ,you explore empathy’s startling importance in human evolution and its significance for our children and our society. Why is empathy essential, and how can parents help to instill it in their children? Are there any lessons here to learn for parents who are struggling to make sense of their teenagers and young adult children’s drug abuse issues?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Empathy is critical for having a happy, healthy life because it affects all of our relationships and our health — physical and mental — to an enormous degree is determined by our ability to form strong bonds with others.  The best way to teach empathy is to behave kindly:  as one expert put it, empathy can’t be taught, but it can be caught.  However, kids need to learn to understand their own feelings well before they can understand those of others:  good ways of helping them learn this are reading to them and asking them explicit questions about their own and other people’s thoughts and feelings in various situations.

Empathy is also important for preventing and treating drug problems.  In terms of prevention, schools with warm atmospheres where kids feel part of a community have less drug use and less bullying, for one.

Also, part of the reason I got interested in the subject was that I saw how unkind so many counselors and treatment programs were to people with addictions.  And there are all kinds of people out there advocating that being cruel is the only way to help.  The data just doesn’t support that — empathetic treatment is the most effective.  And harsh treatment drives people away from seeking help.

JERRY OTERO:  “Kind Love” vs. “Tough Love”, what’s a parent to do about a teenager’s or young adult’s substance use?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: There is no evidence that “tough love” does anything useful.  Of course, you shouldn’t buy drugs for your children or do things that will help them use easily and if they are a danger to you or your other children, you may have to have them live elsewhere — but don’t put a child on the street with the aim of helping him stop using.  It might do that — but it also might make a temporary problem into a permanent one by entrenching the street lifestyle and putting the child at greater risk for overdose, suicide and disease.  If you need to cut a child out of your life, in other words, do it to protect yourself or others, not to help them.  There’s no evidence that it does help and all of the evidence on treatment and intervention shows that kind, supportive, gradual approaches are more effective than abrupt, harsh, confrontational ones.

This goes back to empathy:  if you want to help your child quit, you need to understand why they use and help them find other ways of getting those needs met.  If the child believes you are on their side and will not place them in an awful place they can’t escape and want them to feel good, not control them, you will be much more successful in motivating change.  It’s a lot easier for a kid to say yes to treatment if he knows his parents will back him up if it’s not right for him; a trial of antidepressants is much more easily done if the teen sees this as a way for her to feel better, not a way for her to be made compliant.

Check back next week for Part 2 of our Q&A, “Finding Treatment for Your Teen.”

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com and writes about addiction-related issues for The Fix.com . Find her on Twitter at @maiasz.  In addition to the books mentioned above, Ms. Szalavitz previously co-authored The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook: What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love and Healing (Basic, 2007), and Recovery Options: The Complete Guide: How You and Your Loved Ones Can Understand and Treat Alcohol and Other Drug Problems (John S. Wiley, 2000).

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under Books about addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, getting help, parenting, Substance Abuse, tough love, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



Does Relapse Mean Failure?
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Does Relapse Mean Failure?

He relapsed, does that mean he failed? HELL YES, over and over the same old crap!!! Won’t he ever GET IT???!!! (Expressed very loudly by a father of an addict: me.)

No, no, no, this isn’t a rant of today. Everything is still good with my son. These are the words that still echo in the walls of our home.

We all evolve and learn in the process of parenting an addict. When I first entered this world, my way of thinking was cut and dried. You either recovered or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you failed.

Well, learning is hard, especially if you happen to be an adult.  And when learning involves first unlearning what you believe to be true, it is particularly difficult.

I struggled a lot. It literally took me years to understand what so many people told me over and over, relapse is a part of recovery. It was hard to accept this idea when I couldn’t relate it to what I’d experienced and believed in my life.

I can remember sending Alex off to his first inpatient rehab. So easy that was. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Send him away, write a really big check and he comes home cured. Boy was I dumb!

It didn’t take long for the anger to surface. Two weeks, in fact. What the hell, two weeks and it is the same old thing — except my bank account is minus $6000.

Fast forward through a lot of anger, time and way too many more dollars than I want to think about. Relapse is a part of recovery. I don’t know the statistics on how many addicts “get it” the first time, but they aren’t really relevant to our story.

What I have learned is that recovery is a process that involves many things and numerous variables of which relapse is one component. That’s not to mean I accept relapse because it is part of the package it just means I have a better grasp of the process and I am able to live in reality.

Does relapse mean failure?

Failure is the act of not trying. This is how I broke it down in simple terms and concepts for myself. When I was younger I water skied a lot. The first time I ran a slalom course I fell, if I remember right it was on the first ball. When I tried to trick ski I fell on my first 360.

Failure wasn’t me falling. Failure would have been if I climbed into the boat and never skied again. Failure isn’t the result of not succeeding. Failure is the result of not trying or giving up.

No matter how many times it takes.

To learn more, read 5 Things You Need to Know About Relapse.

(proof Darlene and I were young once upon a time)

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, parenting, Recovery & Relapse, relapse, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



5 Things You Need to Know About Relapse
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

People in recovery and their families are often terrified of relapse. Understanding the following 5 points may help.

1. Relapse is common. Although relapses are not inevitable, they are common. Many people have one or more relapses before achieving long-lasting sobriety or abstinence. This does not mean the end of efforts toward abstinence and recovery. The person needs to get back into treatment and the family needs to continue attending a support group, professional counseling, or both.

2. Work together to prevent relapse. People in recovery may have frequent urges to drink or use drugs, and feel guilty about it, even though these urges are a normal part of recovery. It’s important to work together to anticipate high-risk situations (such as a party where alcohol will be served) and plan ways to prevent them.

3. Relapse can happen during good times, too. Sometimes relapse occurs when the person is doing well with their recovery. He or she feels healthy, confident, and/or “cured” and believes that he or she is ready to go back to casual, regular or “controlled” use of drugs or alcohol. The person may remember the honeymoon period of their use (even though it may have been long ago) — where his or her use didn’t cause problems — and may want to return to that place. But this is often impossible since addiction changes the physical makeup of the brain and the person is recovery is no longer able to use drugs or alcohol in a controlled fashion.

4. If relapse occurs. Medical professionals, particularly those who specialize in substance use disorders, are an extremely important asset during a time of relapse. They can help the person learn techniques for containing feelings, focusing on the present, and making use of support from others. Relying on group support from Twelve Step programs, engaging in prayer or meditation, and finding other ways to stay on an even keel can also be extremely helpful.

5. Learn from relapse. Experts have found that a relapse can serve as an important opportunity for the recovering person and other family members to identify what triggered the relapse in the first place — and find ways to avoid it in the future.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Drugs, Family Therapy, getting help, parenting, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse, relapse, Substance Abuse, Twelve Step, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



Cuisinart-Head: My Mom Was Spinning from My Brother’s Drug Addiction
Friday, February 15th, 2013

Like so many, my family has been touched by addiction. Our heads constantly spun for years as we tried to find the way to fix the addicts we love so dearly. Cuisinart-head is a term borrowed from a family addictions consultant – it perfectly described my mom’s mentality in the midst of my brother Chris’s addiction. Her head swirled with the familiar stew of questions parents of addicts will know all too well:

  • How does this facility compare to that one?
  • Where did Jane say she sent her son to? Did he like it?
  • Will Chris like Dr. Jones?
  • Why is Dr. Jones prescribing Lithium? What will it do to Chris?

Meds. Rehabs. The detox world tour. How can a mother desperate to help her son possibly make sense of all of this? Well, Mom tried. A discussion with one person would lead to another contact, and mom filled five notebooks with information. Chris may have gone through 12 facilities, but mom kept extensive notes on 25. She logged the 30 medications he was on over seven years and their associated side effects, along with notes from 28 providers she trusted. She called on any resource – published authors, researchers, psychiatrists, parents of other addicted children.

Mom was the super-case manager, addicted to Chris’s addiction and the quest to find the right program, therapist, coach, approach that would save him.  And Chris stood still, waiting for the next placement, or professional to meet with, seemingly unaware or unimpressed by Mom’s frantic efforts to keep him alive. We want to expect different behavior from an addict in response to an outpouring of loving effort, but those who have experienced this ride know that that rarely happens. Cuisinart-head can’t move an unwilling addict.

Addiction often causes this dynamic – a family consumed with information and plans for the addict and the addict unwilling/uninterested/unmotivated to change his or her behavior. For mom, research distracted her from her anger toward Chris, disappointment in his choices and frustration that he couldn’t just “stop using and return toward a normal life.” Instead of confronting uncomfortable emotions, it was easier to obsess over how to solve the problem. This thought stew can become at least a coping mechanism if not an outright addiction unto itself.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, Mom’s mental “spinning” didn’t solve Chris’s addiction. It made her feel as though she was “doing something,” and it did generate options but also created a lot of anxiety and second-guessing. Mom’s hyper-focus on the details obscured the real loss she mourned: her dreams for her son’s future.  But we now know that distress over a loved one’s future as a non-addict can consume the family’s present with little result.

Thankfully, our story has a happy ending, and my brother is leading a productive, happy life in recovery.

Families often ask “What did it?” and the truth is there are probably a lot of factors – Chris was older, “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” financial support was cut off, his last treatment center was a good match with a strong young person’s AA community and focus on yoga and meditation.

Mom no longer spends her time in Cuisinart-head spells trying to fix him. A couple of years into the madness, my mom stepped back and realized this process could continue for years and went into individual therapy. She had a place with an impartial observer to share her fears for Chris’ future, discuss her anger toward him and relay her concerns for my father’s health, which had been impacted throughout Chris’ journey.  My mom’s therapist gave her the confidence to remain clear-headed in crisis and helped her manage her emotions in a healthy way, which improved her interactions with Chris and thoughts related to his care.

For those who struggle with Cuisinart-head now, I would encourage you to prioritize your physical and emotional health. My mom’s research and calls weren’t incorrect actions, but in isolation, they created an unhealthy obsession and belief that she could fix Chris’ addiction by finding the perfect option for him.  In her case, a therapist was able to provide guidance and a space for her to discuss what happens if none of her efforts worked.

I hope that you can find some hope in our story and that you call on resources in your local area. Share your story below, talk with a therapist or coach, attend Al-Anon or another peer support group, call The Partnership at Drugfree.org toll-free Parent Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) – seek out guidance from others to stop the spinning.

Posted by Arden O'Connor  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Family Therapy, Finding Treatment, getting help, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



The Best Way to Say “I Love You” to Your Kids This Valentine’s Day? Have a Conversation.
Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Although Valentine’s Day is typically considered a time for expressions of “romantic love,”  it’s also a great opportunity to connect with your kids to let them know how important they are to you and how much you love them.

In my work on the Parent Helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE, I often help parents figure out better ways to communicate with their teens and young adults. Having a meaningful conversation with your teen can be difficult, to say the least. Here are four tips to help get your child to open up so you can develop a better connection:

1. Ask “Open-Ended” Questions.

If you ask your child, for instance, “What have you been up to lately?” The typical response may be, “Nothing.” However, by asking the question in a way that compels your child to respond with more than a one word answer, you are inviting him to interact with you in a more productive way. Example: “When you went out with your friends last night, who did you hang out with?” Avoid asking questions that only have yes or no answers.

2. Use Reflective Listening.

Mirror back what your child is saying to you. It allows her to clarify what she is saying and creates an opportunity for you to get clarification, too. For instance, your teen says, “Ugh, every time I go out with Jenny I have to watch what I say. I hate when she asks me to go out with her!”  You, as the parent, may respond, “It sounds like going out with Jenny makes you frustrated.” This also helps your child feel heard.

3. Use Affirmations. 

It means a lot to teens to know that they have done something right in their parents’ eyes. Identify the positive things your child does and point out the times you respected his decision. It is important to recognize all the efforts your teen makes – big or small – on a daily basis. Acknowledging that it isn’t so easy to be a teen today lets him know you may not understand everything that he goes through, but that you do understand his struggles.

4. Summarize. 

This is helpful when your child needs to change a behavior. It also helps parents learn more about their children’s mixed feelings about a given situation and the reasons why they continue doing what they do. When summarizing, parents help their children notice their ambivalence, affirm it and encourage them to decide what is important to them. It is essential that you allow your child to create his own values and not instill your own.

By calmly summarizing the situation at hand (e.g. the need to stop smoking pot or to enter rehab) and accepting that your child’s initial reaction may be one of resistance, you are allowing him to take more control over his life. As a parent, you can affirm your child’s ambivalence by saying, “You’re right, Trevor, going to rehab will mean you can’t hang out with your friends this summer, but what will happen if you continue to drink and smoke pot in your senior year?”  Or, “I hear you say that you don’t want to sleep all day anymore and that you want to get back into bike riding. How do you think smoking weed has affected your energy level this past year?”

All in all, engaging with your child in a meaningful conversation is more likely to be productive than simply telling her what she should do for her future. The latter approach will, more than likely, not only elicit but also intensify your child’s resistance.

So, celebrate this holiday of love by taking time to talk to your kids about what’s really important. For more tips on what to do once you get the conversation going, please:

Wishing you and your family a very happy (and talkative) Valentine’s Day.

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under Confronting Teens, Family members, parenting, Patience, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



Be Cautious of Boot Camps and Wilderness Programs for Your Addicted Teen
Monday, January 28th, 2013

Earlier this month a few of us attended a Lunch ‘n’ Learn event at CASAColumbia with Maia Szalavitz, a neuroscience journalist who covers health, science and public policy. She discussed the theme of her book, Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006), an exposé of the “tough love” business.

The talk prompted us to revisit and share what we at The Partnership at Drugfree.org know about boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled and/or addicted teens.

First, it is important to note that boot camps and wilderness programs are not included among the levels of care defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Although you may have heard success stories or read about the benefits of boot camps, we strongly suggest you look very carefully into any boot camp or wilderness program before sending your teen for substance abuse treatment.

According to a government report, these programs are not subjected to federal oversight, and there have been thousands of reports of neglect and abuse at privately owned and operated boot camps and wilderness programs for troubled youth.

Ms. Szalavitz explained that a person with the disease of addiction is already in a lot of pain. To get better, that person doesn’t need more pain and abuse, but rather a kind and supportive approach to treatment. One that’s comprehensive, respectfully addressing the individual’s physical, emotional and social issues. One that makes the person feel better.

We suggest that if you are seriously considering a boot camp or wilderness program, you check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the program. You should also call the program and ask a lot of questions, including:

1) What specific substance abuse and mental health licensing and accreditation does the program have? (If the providers are not licensed, do NOT send your child to the program.)
2) Has a child in the care of the program ever died, and if so, why?
3) What specific training (particularly survival skills training for outdoor programs) do the counselors have?
4) Have there have been any complaints of abuse or neglect at the camp?
5) Can you put me in touch with a few families that have a child who have completed the program so that I can hear about their experience?
6) Who is responsible for medical care? (It should be a licensed medical doctor.)

Remember, addiction is a serious health issue and requires appropriate treatment by licensed professionals so that addicted persons can learn how to manage drug and alcohol problems, how to handle relapse and how to live a life free of drugs and alcohol.

For more questions to ask programs when looking for treatment for your child, here are some helpful resources:

To find the best assistance option for your child with an alcohol or drug problem, see our Treatment e-book.

To connect with other parents about your child’s drug and alcohol problem, join our online support community at TimeToGetHelp.drugfree.org.

To speak to a trained specialist, call our toll-free helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).

Have you sent or considered sending your child to a boot camp or wilderness program? Comment below to share your thoughts or experiences.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Books about addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, parenting, Scare tactics, tough love, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  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



Detaching With Love: How I Learned to Separate My Son and His Addiction
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

My son Alex shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times, when he was a minor, we’d get a call to come pick him up, and he’d get a ticket, and we’d pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.

When he turned 18, he was no longer a minor, and with his record they’d take him to jail. He’d make that phone call from jail, “Please come and bail me out. I’m never going to do this again.” Off we’d go. After a while, this was getting expensive. And my wife Darlene and I were not learning our lesson—and, by the way, neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over. Nothing was changing. He’d make the same promises, we’d take the same action, and we couldn’t understand why he kept using!

This is where the idea of “detaching” and setting boundaries started with us. We decided we weren’t going to pay bail next time.

But it wasn’t easy. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO, jail he witnessed a person getting stabbed. The food is universally bad at jails, and without money on your books, you can’t even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth. He had food stolen from him and at times had to fight to keep it. He spent two days in solitary confinement for defending himself against an inmate who attacked him. Some jails put the mentally ill in with criminals such as rapists and murderers, and then put them all in together with the drug addicts. It makes no sense to me.

It’s hard to think of yourself as a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars you could get your child out of those situations. You wonder: if I don’t pay the bail, am I really a loving parent? But eventually, the day comes when you don’t pay. We once let our son sit in the “Johnson County, KS, Resort” for 11 days because we wouldn’t post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn’t it?

This is about detaching with love and not enabling. Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries, this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.

Another value we hold close and taught our kids is that stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences, and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values, we were bailing him out. We hated what he was exposed to in jail; however, we had established a pattern: he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand.

Darlene and I sat down and determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to help us establish our boundaries. You can’t cover all of the possible situations; you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and fight the instinct to enable by rescuing, the exercise becomes easier and more natural.

Once boundaries are determined, you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time, and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, “Because we love you…” and then, for instance, “we can no longer bail you out of jail. All of your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart, so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision.”

For each boundary we had discussed, the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and asked him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him of our expectations, and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called, begged, pleaded and cried from jail, but what we had been doing in the past didn’t work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn’t mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.

Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street scoring and shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as “protective custody.”

We detached from Alex’s crimes and actions; we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10-for-10-minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended by saying that we loved him and asking him to please help himself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside, not the addiction controlling the life.

Today, Alex is two-and-a-half years sober.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Codependency, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family members, parenting, Patience, Substance Abuse, tough love, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more






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