Intervene

A blog for parents concerned about their teens alcohol and drug use




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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some of the things we learned:

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

Read the rest of this entry »

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Parent of an Addict: What’s it Really Like?
Friday, April 15th, 2011

teen-in-hospital-bed1 “Be all you can be.” That’s The U.S. Army’s recruiting slogan.  It also happens to be a necessary motto for every parent of an addict.

So what’s it really like raising a child with a drug problem?

It starts with letting go of the idea of having a “normal” life. Truthfully, it’s a far cry from the storybook life we all fantasized about once upon a time. Being a parent of an addict is about being more than you ever dreamed you could be. And most days it feels like you’re at war.

You quickly learn survival skills.  Not just physical survival. Yes, those are necessary at times, but also emotional survival skills.

You learn to love someone that, by all accounts, is un-loveable. Being close to an addict is toxic, even for a parent. We are not immune to the symptoms of the disease. We just learn how to absorb the poisonous relationship and deal with the behaviors in a way that allows us to protect ourselves and do our best to protect our suffering child.

A parent finds a way to hold on to hope when your heart is being torn apart and all seems hopeless.  But you never give up on hope — not for your child or yourself.

You find a way to survive in situations that you never dreamed you would encounter, such as visiting with your child through a glass wall surrounded by steel bars and cages. Or standing beside him as he lay in an emergency room bed while a very somber doctor explains the situation.

Miraculously, you find a way to detach yourself from your child’s actions that run counter to every value you hold dear and have taught him since he was a baby. You learn to manage your emotions when you know that your child is dealing in areas that you would not venture into without a police escort.

Read the rest of this entry »

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



Addiction Is a Disease
Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

You may think: I drink alcohol and I know my limits.  Alcoholics just don’t know how to control themselves.  It’s their choice that they don’t want to stop drinking.  Just as easily, you probably infer the same thought process for other drugs out there… heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, etc. Drug use is a choice.

Yes, drug use is a choice.  It’s free-will to pick up that joint, light it and smoke it.  But what’s going on behind the scenes (i.e. in your brain) isn’t a choice.  Unless you can control your brain structure. In that case, who are you and where are you from?

Since I began working at The Partnership at Drugfree.org, I’ve often asked myself: Why is there such resistance to acknowledge addiction as a disease. The media is so quick to call the person with an addiction irresponsible, reckless, selfish and troubled.  And the majority of online commenters fuel the fire by honing in on the behaviors of the disease, rather than acknowledging the disease itself. It makes me wonder two things: Are people really that cruel? Do people understand what addiction really is?

Maybe, maybe not.   My inclination is sensationalized news sells more magazines and drives traffic.  That’s why news sources play up what’s going on with the Charlie Sheens and Lindsay Lohans of the world, but why do so many of you?  It’s easy to blame someone for the choices they make in life, but when it comes to drug addiction, there is little choice involved.  Although everyone has the potential for addiction, some people are more predisposed to addiction than others.

When a person is addicted they’re suffering continuously; their brain chemistry changes causing distortions of cognitive and emotional functioning; and, even in the face of death, they continue to harm themselves. Family and friends of addicts claim erratic changes in mood, behavior and perception.  Many say their addicted loved one becomes an entirely different person.

Just like schizophrenics can’t control their hallucinations… Parkinson’s patients can’t control their trembling… clinically depressed patients can’t control their moods… once a person is addicted to drugs it’s not that different than other brain diseases.  No matter how someone has developed an illness, once the person has it, they’re in a diseased state and need treatment. 

Moreover, like any other illness, it affects family and friends, too.  There are moms who stay up all night waiting for their child to come home.  There are dads who fear that dreaded phone call telling them that their child has overdosed.  There are siblings who try to remain strong as their family is slowly falling apart. There are friends who feel like their hands are tied, but are clinging to that small ounce of hope that the friend they once knew will accept help. 

Ask the parents, family and friends of the addict if drug addiction is a choice.  Go ahead and ask the addict himself as well.  They will tell you from their experiences that addiction is not a choice.

Knowledge is power. (Sorry for the cliché).  When we bash something that we don’t really understand, and we do it in the numbers, it sways public opinion – intended or not.  With this mindset, the stigma that is attached with the disease of addiction will never go away unless we all change how we view it.

Posted by Community Manager Olivia  /  Filed under Addiction, Cocaine, Heroin  /  Comments: more



4 Lessons I Learned About Confronting My Substance Abusing Teen
Thursday, February 24th, 2011

When I first discovered that my daughter was using marijuana and alcohol, I was blindsided. At first I tried approaching her as a concerned parent and when that didn’t work, I resorted to yelling, threatening, punishing and even having the police at the house to lecture her when she broke curfew.  No matter what I did, things kept getting worse. I finally realized that I was having about as much success as someone standing on a train track trying to stop a fast moving train.  That was the point when I became desperate enough to seek help from adolescent addiction professionals and also joined a support group for parents who were dealing with their children’s addiction. I thought I would feel shame when I reached out, but instead found understanding, support and a sense of renewed hope. Once I began to apply my newfound knowledge by communicating with my daughter differently, things began to change for the better.  Below are some valuable lessons that I learned. 

1)  Arguing with an addicted teen doesn’t work

Reacting to your teen only fuels the fire.  Addicts can be manipulative and they have an uncanny way of turning an issue back on you.  When you react and blow up, you take the focus off of them, and put it right back onto you.  Now it is all about your anger and you are the bad guy.  This gives them even more reason to use.  Reasoning with them doesn’t work either.  A teenage addict has a chemically altered mind that will rarely respond to reason. 

2)  Set Clear Boundaries and stick to them

Your teen should understand that using drugs and alcohol comes with specific consequences. But don’t make hollow threats or set rules that you cannot enforce. It is also important that your spouse agrees with the rules and is prepared to enforce them.  Standing as a united front as parents is crucial when you are fighting against a foreign substance that has taken over your child’s brain.  

3)  Arm Yourself with Support and Information

Learning to talk to my addict daughter was like learning a new language. My greatest teachers were my parent support group and the substance abuse counselors that partnered with me to intervene in my daughter’s addiction.  The internet is also a great tool.  I never would have been able to navigate my way though those difficult times without learning some new ways of communicating and applying them with the help of others.   

4)  Timing is everything

Perhaps your teen has been arrested or expelled from school or has been caught driving under the influence. You can use this as an opportunity to approach your child and convince them to enter treatment.  Don’t blow a good chance.  A crisis event can be an opportunity for parents to confront their child.  Facing real consequences can wake some teens up.  Any intervention, either formal or informal, is an attempt to convince an addict that they are at their bottom, and it is time to make a change.  The goal is to get your child to the place that they stop fighting for their addiction.  Going it alone however can be difficult.  Enlisting the intervention assistance of Adolescent Substance Abuse Professionals can dramatically increase the odds that your teen will become willing to accept help.

When the disease of addiction hit my family, it was like a tornado hitting our home from the inside out.  There were days when I felt like I was losing the battle.  Towards the end, my daughter had a full blown addiction to crystal meth. It was important for me to keep moving forward to keep building my arsenal of knowledge and expanding my circle of support.  Nothing changes if no one changes.  It had to start with me.

Posted by Karen Franklin  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Marijuana, Substance Abuse  /  Comments: 1



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Acceptance
Thursday, September 30th, 2010

I wrote in my journal: So how do I feel? Like a failure of a mother. Everyone in the field of drug addiction says, “Don’t blame yourself. You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it; you didn’t make him a drug addict.” But look deeply into a mother’s eyes and tell her that her child is dying and it’s not her fault. Is it possible for a mother to do nothing to stop the pain, to alter its course?  Sure, it makes sense if the child is not your flesh and blood.

My Reflection: I felt I had failed my son. He was a drug addict and I couldn’t stop it. Mothers protect their children, right? I wanted to blame the addiction on anyone, even myself, but certainly not my first-born son.

In time, I learned that trying to assign blame didn’t help anyone: not me, not my son, not my family. I learned to have faith in the Al-Anon saying: “You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it, but you can contribute to it.” Wherever the addiction came from, I had to acknowledge it, accept it, and move forward in prayer and action. Feeling like a failure did no one any good.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Libby Cataldi  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more






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