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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



5 Tips for Keeping Your Teen Safe This Holiday Season and into the New Year
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

The festive lights that started twinkling along 5th Ave – despite it seeming as if we had only just gotten to this side of Halloween – weren’t enough of a sign for me. It wasn’t until after my family’s own Thanksgiving dinner, when I loosened my belt a notch, that it hit me. The holiday season is upon us, in full swing – with all of its candles and lights, connecting with family and friends, eating and drinking, gift-giving, celebrating, and of course partying.

It is also a time when your teenagers will be out of school and facing much less structure and supervision. School breaks typically mean lots of freedom and time spent socializing with friends, not to mention the increased access to alcohol that comes with the parties. Many work hard to find positive activities for their teens during the holiday break from school. But even so, a lot of teens are left seeking something to do with the idle time in between. And because boredom is a major reason teens give for substance abuse, even the most trustworthy can be at risk.

Additionally, The Brookline Parents Education Network reports that New Year’s Eve, in particular, can be a difficult night for parents to set guidelines for their teens. More than any other event, this night is associated with drinking. Many kids have internalized a dangerous and false message: “Unless you are at a large gathering of friends drinking, you are a loser.” They put pressure on their parents to let them attend unsupervised parties and sleepovers.  Parents may be out with their own friends and less vigilant about supervision. And children may be less forthcoming about where they will be, and with whom.

Teens drinking alcohol at a New Year's party

Here are 5 tips parents can use to keep their teenagers safe during the holiday season and into the New Year:

•    Be sure your teen understands that drinking under the age of 21 is illegal and unacceptable.

•    Know where your teen is going, and ask lots of questions. Who will be there? Will alcohol or other drugs be present? Will adults be home? Do those adults tolerate drinking in their home?

•    Discuss with your teen situations in which he or she might be offered drugs or alcohol, and plan ways for how they can respond. Be sure your teen knows to call 911 immediately if a partygoer needs medical attention. For tips on how to talk to your teen and for strategies he or she can use to decline drugs or alcohol, see our Parent Talk Kit.

•    Make a plan with your teen for how he or she will get home. Remind him or her never to get in a car with a driver who has been using drugs or drinking. Provide money for a taxi or public transportation if it is available and safe in your area. Make an agreement with your teen that if he or she calls to ask for a ride, you will come immediately (no matter where or what time), with no questions asked until later. Here is a contract you and your teen can use to establish a clear understanding of acceptable actions.

•    Be a role model, and know that your behavior is a major influence on your child. Drink responsibly, and don’t abuse alcohol or drugs. Never drive under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. Never get in a car with a driver who is under the influence. Safeguard your prescription medicine and only use it as directed by a doctor.

What challenges or concerns are you facing this holiday season? Please use the comments section below to share any ideas or questions you have about keeping your teens safe through the New Year.

On behalf of the Partnership at Drugfree.org, I wish you and your family a safe holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year.

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Family members, parenting, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more



12-Step Programs: Working Toward Freedom from Addiction
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Our libraries and book stores are filled with books on addiction and treatment centers have materialized in cities across the globe; addiction has touched the lives of most people.

Therapists’ phones are ringing off the hook because addiction is causing incredible pain in many families across the nation.  Books, treatment centers and doctors all have a role to play in the process of recovery. The disheartening truth is that all the education in the world will not eliminate the obsession of the user. Self knowledge alone will not keep us clean nor will it help the family member to find solace in their quest for healing.

However, most these avenues of treatment will introduce the client to the 12-Step programs. In my first blog I talked about the programs of Alanon and Naranon. These programs are essential for family members and friends of the addict. I want to emphasize to parents the importance of embracing the 12-Steps into your own lives.

Intervention and rehab centers are important components in the treatment of addiction and can be important stepping stones in the pursuit of finding freedom from addiction, but they do not equal recovery. They are external support systems; the steps will be the channel to internalize this important information. There is a saying in the 12-Step arena that the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.

Today, there are hundreds of 12-Step programs based on the original 12-Step concept launched by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The steps are basically the same for each of these programs, except for the first step, which begins with, “We are powerless over….”

You can fill in the blank with “drugs,” “alcohol,” “food,” “gambling,” etc. I use the word “addiction” when referring to this step, because it encompasses all unhealthy obsessions.

The experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

Sponsorship is highly suggested in all 12-Step programs. When asking someone to be your sponsor, you look for someone who reflects in life what you are seeking. This person will guide you through the step process—someone you can call in a time of confusion, someone who you trust spiritually.

Each of the steps contains certain spiritual principles. Some 12-Step literature emphasizes the HOW of the program. This acronym refers to three basic principles: Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness. There is a deliberate order and harmony in the way that each principle is placed, practiced, and ultimately lived within the 12-Step process. As we work these steps, our lives begin to change. We are transformed by these principles from the “inside out,” and as our spirits heal and grow our material lives are positively changed.

The serenity that is spoken of so highly in 12-Step fellowships flows outward, attracting others who seek it out. We write out each step, identifying what the step means to us and how it applies to our lives today. This process is like when a Zen master gives his student a Koan to figure out, and solve in their life. The most famous example of these playful, mystical riddles would surely be, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The student then meditates on this phrase (or step) to come up with what this means personally and spiritually in their present life.

Since our spiritual journey involves constant change, we continue to grow by working the steps over and over again, each time on a different issue and at a deeper level. The journey of the steps mirrors our lives, and their meanings change with us over time. The principles that occur as we work and live the steps are quite simply directions. Like points on a compass, they tell us where to go, directing our lives into a place of wholeness and fulfillment. I believe this profound personality change has to be ongoing. To assure our transformation continues, I suggest to the people I sponsor to keep their practice of the steps ongoing. The steps save our lives, and then they change our lives. We, in turn, show the next person how we did it. Ideally, this process of spiritual growth never ends.

When addiction enters our lives, either through our own use or that of a family member, it can cause enormous confusion and pain and turn life as we know it upside down. The spiritual path of the 12-Steps is not always easy, but the willingness to practice the steps will begin to soften our attitude toward addiction.  Compassion and understanding will begin to fill the void that anger and resentment used to occupy.

As we begin to witness our lives and those around us change, we come to see that our greatest challenges are often the introduction to a deeper compassion, engendering our view of life with a new sense of vision.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Hope, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more



Addiction as a Gift: Our Call to a Deep Spiritual Practice
Monday, March 26th, 2012

“I’m Tom, a grateful recovering addict.”

I have identified myself in this way in meetings and conventions for over 40 years. My intention is to put a new interpretation on the insidious disease of addiction. We all know the nightmares that accompany addiction. I invite you to move beyond the traditional ways addiction is looked upon, revealing the seemingly hopeless disease of addiction as an enlightening dilemma. I hope to introduce you to the revolutionary belief that for some individuals a life fraught with sickening addiction can quite possibly become a misunderstood gift and a blessing in disguise.

Currently there are countless studies and books written on the field of addiction and the vast and growing research on what is now termed “addictionology.” Though it is a fascinating area of contemporary and compassion-based health care, it is also encompassed within the realm of clinical rehabilitation centers, some of which are rife with discouraging statistics and sterile data. I speak from my heart and own experience.  I was once a hopeless addict whose life has been interrupted by a Higher Power.  My life was transformed by surrendering to the principles of The 12-Steps, which has led to a life that is devoted to the practice of meditation and service to others.

Addiction touches everyone. When an individual, his or her family member, or a close friend struggles with the malady, it eventually affects the lives of every member of society. In every country around the world, people have found a way out of their addiction. On a daily basis there are millions of people attending 12-Step meetings in almost every country on this planet. Be assured you are not alone.

The idea that the disease of addiction can only be treated by a spiritual transformation has been the motivating idea from the beginning. In the early 1930s, a hopeless alcoholic sought help from Carl Jung, a well known psychiatrist. The patient had resigned himself to the tormented reality that he suffered from the chronic inability to stop drinking. In those days, such people often ended up in jail or a mental institution and many lost everything that had been dear to them, including family, friends, careers and ultimately life itself. Addiction was viewed as a lapse in morality and had not yet been recognized as a medical disease.

This man came to Dr. Jung and asked for help. The psychiatrist frankly told him that although he was unable to help him, he had—on a few rare occasions—seen someone in the grips of alcoholism go through a profound personality change brought on by an intense spiritual experience. This visit to Dr. Jung set the foundation for other drunks to stay sober by helping each other and in turn practicing the spiritually-driven 12-Steps of recovery. The steps were designed to achieve the ongoing spiritual experiences that brought on the deep personality changes in our lives. One could argue that the steps were “given” to addicts by a higher spiritual realm, and Jung was as much a conduit as a cornerstone for the recovery movement. In his later years, Jung would be asked if he believed in God. Without hesitation Jung answered, “I know there is a God.” Yet the experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

I would not dismiss anyone’s pain caused by the disease of addiction.  If you are a family member or a close friend, let the experience be a calling card for your own spiritual practice. The programs of Alanon and Naranon can be your refuge, a sanctuary where you find understanding.  You may suddenly realize you’re not alone in this pain. This can be the beginning of a great adventure within, bringing to your attention that addiction is just one of many countless challenges we are called upon to face in life.

Kahil Gibran put it so eloquently in his book, “The Prophet”:  “Your Children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

Gibran was speaking the language of Alanon and Naranon long before their inception.  We must learn to detach and to love unconditionally. Once we start practicing spiritual principles we learn we can’t manipulate life to fit the conditions we believe will ensure our happiness. Instead we tend to each moment without judgment or criticism; acceptance of what is becomes our offering.

The 12-Step programs have been proclaimed as one of the most powerful spiritual movements of the twentieth century.  These programs provide support and guidance to offer hope where all hope was lost.  May loving kindness fill your hearts.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Forgiveness, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more



The Language of Drug Addiction is Often Negative
Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Tough LoveThe language of drug addiction is laced with many terms that seem to be designed to scare everyone. Many words and descriptors of addiction make me cringe “Hitting rock bottom,” is a term I have written about before. Another term that I have recently been exploring and considering is “Tough Love.”

Tough Love is harsh. For a parent to do what is necessary isn’t “tough love” it is REAL LOVE. Real love is letting your child sit in jail (protective custody) when for only a few dollars you could get him out and spare him from the confines of jail. (Only to find them using again within two hours.) Real love is telling your child he cannot live in your home as he continue to use drugs. Real love is when you see your addict hungry, dirty and homeless, and you buy him a meal, give him information of people who can help and encourage him to seek help and not offering to “fix it” for him. Real love is selfishly taking the time to work on yourself so that when your addict has a “profound experience” you ARE able to help in the right way instead of just falling back on old habits of enabling.

Addiction is a disease. When we see a parent sitting bedside of a child with cancer taking chemotherapy, holding his hand, wiping his head, combing his hair as is falls out, holding the pan as he gets sick, we admire that parent and comment how much they must love their child to be by his side. That parent doesn’t love their child any more than you or I. That parent is only doing what they can and must to help their child get better; just like we are doing when we practice tough love real love.

Real Love is why you are here reading these essays written by parents and professionals who have walked this path before you.

Tough love is easy, throw them out and leave them to the world.

What words in the world of addiction make you angry? Share with us below.

Related Links
Moving Away From Enabling
How a Child’s Own Reasons for Change Lead to the Most Success
Losing Your Mind Doesn’t Help Anyone

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



My Son’s Drug Addiction: What I Learned About Myself
Tuesday, August 30th, 2011

Father and SonWhen I learned my son was addicted to drugs, my focus was on him and his addiction. Like many parents, I felt that his addiction was every bit my problem as it was his. I tirelessly tried to fix his addiction.  After a few years of repeated behaviors and strong reactions, no one got better.

I didn’t know what I was doing wrong.

It wasn’t until I realized that I had so much to learn about myself and how I was reacting to this disease did I begin to feel better. I realized that my son’s sobriety was not within my ability to control. The extent of my authority over this disease ended at the tip of my nose.

“What have I learned?” I think this is the most important question a parent of a teen with an addiction can ask him- or herself. This self-reflective question emphasizes you, the parent, and not the child with the drug problem.

In the midst of crisis and drama, it is difficult to figure out what to do to support a loved one with an addiction. A parent cannot deal successfully with the chaos this disease brings if he or she is feeling fear and anger within.

True education occurs when we can sit quietly and reflect upon the events and look critically at our own role as a loving and supportive parent.

Without quiet contemplation and analysis of my own actions, a parent can fall into the same traps and reactions. After a long period of doing the same thing over and over again, you many begin questioning, ‘who is the crazy one in this picture?’

Working through the layers of actions and experiences to figure out what one has learned may or may not be a solitary exercise. Counselors, therapists, fellow loved ones of addicts can be brought in to help with this deliberation.

However, in the end, the decisions lie with you and how you choose to internalize the learning. Following that, you begin to realize the truism of the saying, “Nothing changes, if nothing changes.”

“What have I learned?” is a recurring theme throughout parenting a loved one with an addiction.

What have I learned through the years? A better question would be what have I learned, unlearned and re-learned? This disease is not one that lends itself to a standardized treatment regimen that guarantees recovery. In fact, recovery is actually a misnomer in that there is a new normal.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Addiction, Hope, parenting, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself  /  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



9 Steps to Take When Your Recovering Teen Comes Home from Treatment
Friday, June 10th, 2011

recovering teen coming home again

It is easy to have high expectations for a teen coming home from some kind of treatment, but what they need to know, is how important they are to their recovery — that failure is not the end and success is up to them.  Substance use disorder creates stress for a family and there is no guarantee of the outcome of recovery without diligence. You know who your teen is.  What comes after treatment is more work.  Finding ways to deal with it are critical.  There are resources everywhere and the web is a good place to start, even to find a meeting.  There are also, ways for the whole family to just work together that enhances the success of a teen’s recovery.  Here are a few:

1.    Willingly, engage in the process of recovery. Recovery takes the whole family. You’ve survived together through major crises. You now have the chance to repair family bonds.

2.    See this in a new light. You know that your teen’s substance abuse was not a passing fad, so “accept” your teen’s addiction.  Try on addiction as a disease, not a moral problem. Look at recovery as an enduring process not a single event.  Don’t view relapse as a failure, but accept sobriety, at any time as a success; usually, the biggest success in an addict’s life.

3.    View your teen as an important. They have a huge burden and deserve to know the freedom of sobriety.  We forget that each of us, are the most important person in our own lives.  Knowing that, gives us the strength to make it.  No one can do what we do for ourselves.  A recovering addict needs to accept who they are to stay sober.  Drugs were a way of hiding and eventually became a way of life.  Sobriety depends on facing ourselves, head on, while staying sober one day at a time.

4.    Respect your teen’s return home by expecting what you would of a house guest. Encourage courtesy, gratitude and other human graces.  These attributes will heal dysfunction in the family.  Living with a recovering teen is still a challenge, but kindness and mutuality will help everyone.

5.    Put expectations aside. Parents usually have big plans for their teens!  Right now, staying sober is as big an accomplishment as any.  Placing more importance on anything else is stress that your teen might not need for a while.  Encourage your teen to resume education and work activities at his or her own pace.  Recommend physical exercise, lots of water, sleep and healthy food.

6.    Don’t underestimate addiction. Without diligence, sobriety can crumble.  Have a plan for relapse.  Encourage daily 12 step meetings to create bonds with other sober teens. Treatment plans should cover these things.  Al-anon is a good counter-plan for a parent.  If a teen relapses, you can maintain your emotional sobriety.  A teen getting back on track can happen just as quickly as they relapse.  Remember, failure is just another step closer to success.

7.    Be resilient and be prepared. Living with an addict who relapsed can necessitate outside help and tough consequences.  Do this rationally and discuss consequences with your teen.   If relapse persists, consider co-occurring disorders which might negate your teen’s ability to engage recovery without counseling and/or psychiatric evaluation.  It gets harder to deal with this once your child turns 18.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Bill Ford  /  Filed under Addiction, Family Therapy, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more



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

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

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

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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



Giving Up Our Dreams
Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Teens sharing pills

Why is it so hard to give up on our dreams for our children?  We stare reality in the face every day and yet we still hold on to those hopes and dreams.

The day our kids are born we start making plans. We start squirreling away money into college accounts. We dream of smiling proudly as our child graciously strides across the stage at graduation. Nice, neat little homes in the suburbs with our grandchildren playing in the yard. Some of us even have the audacity to picture ourselves in the front row during a presidential inauguration on a cold January day in Washington.

It’s all possible for anyone.

Then we snap out of our dream and see our child addicted to a drug and wonder if the future is even possible. We mourn the loss of our dream. We experience suffering for our child because in our life and wisdom we know the hardship of life even without being saddled with addiction. We cry, become depressed and grieve this fading picture. Never really giving up the hope that all of the past will go away and we all get a “do over”.

Finally, after months or years we realize that today is all we get and tomorrow can be just as fearful as it can be hopeful.

The next phase of our realization begins to become clear. These dreams were ours. That is why the pain is so great. We feel our dream slipping away. It’s such a shame we have imposed our dream upon our child and we see their addiction as a failure to achieve our dream. Oh, I’m sorry, I mean “reach their potential” is the way we say it as parents.

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






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