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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



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



8 Personal Conclusions I’ve Reached as the Parent of an Addict in Recovery
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

My son stopped using over two years ago. For seven years he was addicted to drugs and, by the end, was a heroin addict. Today he is drug-free and working to put his life back together.

There are countless books and websites about addiction, rehab and recovery. Most of them are filled with valuable information that helps both the addict and the parent. I won’t discredit anything on these sites or in these books, but I want to share what I have learned about being the parent of an addict in recovery, not from reading but from experience — no long-drawn processes or lengthy explanations. These are just some realizations that seem to help me.
father and son talking outside1. Recovery is hard. Sometimes your child needs a hand. Make sure your hand is out for them to grasp when needed. But don’t hold on too long.

2. Addicts dig deep holes for themselves. Contrary to what you may think, filling the hole is faster when only one person has a shovel. If you help to shovel, it will take longer to fill the hole.

3. Forgiveness is for me. The sooner I understand, the faster I heal.

4. “Believe” or “doubt?” I choose to believe. Have you ever had someone tell you that they believe in you?

5. Normal is right. “Fragile. Handle with Care” is not stamped in big red letters on a child in recovery. To stop using drugs or alcohol means he or she wants a normal life again.

6. Nagging, suspicious looks and reminders of past mistakes really irritate me. Addicts in recovery probably don’t need them either.

7. His recovery is his to manage. I know that for the last seven years, he hasn’t been able to manage ANYTHING. But we all have to learn and begin someplace.

8. I love you. That is a reassurance we ALL need.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, Hope, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



Get Out of My Way: A Song About Crack Cocaine Addiction and Broken Dreams
Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Get out of my way. That’s exactly what I wanted everyone to do when I was active in my addiction. If a person didn’t have money or something I could sell for crack cocaine, then I wanted nothing to do with them. All that my family could do was watch the whirlwind of devastation from the sidelines. They tried to encourage me to seek help, but I didn’t want to hear a word they said.

As the years past, my addiction became all-consuming and that love affair turned into the only thing I cared about.  I can recall countless times looking intently at the person staring back at me each time I walked by a mirror. During the height of my addiction, I couldn’t stand my reflection as it reminded of me how I lost myself to drugs.  But as I began my recovery, slowly overtime I started to appreciate my presence. I shifted my thought process so that I would no longer be running away from the person that I wanted to become.

By the time I chose to become sober, I had accumulated many broken dreams, torn relationships and a loss of trust between me and the people I cared about most.  My choice of sobriety didn’t happen after an intervention or an epiphany on a random day.  It occurred over time after a series of desperate moments.  Those feelings of hopelessness convinced me that I needed to get and remain sober if I wanted to reclaim my life.

I’m grateful to be alive and well today and I owe a lot of it to hard work and self-reflection.  It couldn’t have happened if I didn’t work toward a life in recovery.  I had to drop the anger, stop blaming others and clean up every aspect of my life.  I quit name calling to deflect the anger that I was feeling internally for not being able to stop using drugs.  I had to stop and eventually I became strong enough to do just that.

I captured these struggles in the song “Get Out of My Way,” which I co-wrote with my twin brother, Rock Star.  This song expresses those moments of fighting off the beast and the raw intensity of drug addiction that held me captive for nearly 15 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Super Star  /  Filed under Addiction, Cocaine, Patience, Recovery, Shame, Treatment  /  Comments: more



Hope, Patience and My Son’s Recovery
Friday, August 19th, 2011

Father and teenage sonMy journal entry: After three years of sobriety, my son’s growth is evident. He laughs more easily, he watches more calmly and he protects himself better. He knows where he hurts and he pays attention to what is coming. He’s more reflective, thoughtful, less impulsive and more honest. He has good friends. Part of my son died with the addiction, but the son I know is still here. Suffice it to say that he is becoming a strong and caring man. He is finding his way back to himself.

My reflection today is based on the entry above: One year earlier, my son told me, “When I awake in the morning, I know if it’s going to be a good day. Some mornings, I reach for a word and it’s like reaching into the fog. Other mornings, when I reach for a word, I pluck it easily out of the air.” He continued, “I’m frustrated that some days aren’t clear, but I guess it will take time. I need to be patient.”

His words reminded me that we need him to stay close and love him through his recovery.

Today’s Promise: I will remain patient and not jump ahead of his process of recovery. The joy is in sobriety, one day at a time. Learning to live in abstinence will take time for him. I am grateful for today. I’ll pray for tomorrow.

What is your promise to yourself today?

Related Links
9 Steps to Take When Your Recovering Teens Comes Home Again
Hope
Stay Close

Posted by Libby Cataldi  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Hope, Patience, Recovery, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: 1






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