Intervene

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




Panicked: Our Child Was Living on the Streets
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

My stepdaughter Katherine was living on the streets with her “meth family” — but we didn’t know where.

We spent countless days and nights waiting for the phone to ring, searching the streets of San Francisco for her whereabouts, seeking help from drug users, police, anyone who would listen to our plight. 

We were in a panic, wondering where she was, where she was sleeping, if she was eating, if she was alive — or if we were about to receive the dreaded call every parent fears. 

Trying to cope with our daily routines was almost unbearable as Katherine’s disappearance consumed us.  Yet we knew we had to stick together in order to rescue her.  We had to stay strong and did so by using these four approaches:

1. FORM A TEAM WITH YOUR SPOUSE/PARTNER:  I cannot tell you how hard it is as a step-mom to convince a biological parent that his child, who he’s known and loved since birth, needs serious, outside help.  But it’s so important that the couple is in absolute, total agreement before redirecting their efforts to saving the child’s life from an addiction.  So, the first thing to do is to form a team that is in total agreement of a) the addiction and b) the approach and methods to getting your child back.

2. STAY POSITIVE:  You have to give up the idea of being “super mom or dad” and trying to “fix” your child’s addiction as if it were a homework issue.  We had to turn over some of the parental instinct and control to a higher power.  This did not mean we gave up, but rather, we stayed optimistic, hoping this positive thinking would keep us sane. We were sure to reassure her friends — and any other possible points of contact — that we were not angry or bitter but simply there for her. 

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Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child  /  Comments: more



The Rollercoaster of Helping an Addicted Child
Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

When you suspect your child is in trouble, one of the most difficult challenges is figuring out how to approach him or her.  Beyond dealing with their particular substance abuse, the big question is how to get them engaged and encouraged to accept treatment. 

Our first attempt at approaching my stepdaughter Katherine did not go well.  As a young adult, access to private information through the school was denied, while friends and acquaintances were never honest with us.  Our only recourse was to invade her personal space at home. 

We read through papers she left around, checked the trunk of her car and found ourselves investigating our own child.  This is not a pleasant undertaking but much needed. 

To this day, I firmly believe Katherine wanted to be helped as she left, in plain sight, writings regarding her usage as well as the failing school notice.  It was then that we decided to tell her that we were no longer paying for her college tuition. 

With this devastating information she left our home for her mother’s in Hawaii.  Ultimately, life in Hawaii took her further downward. 

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Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Recovery & Relapse, Treatment  /  Comments: more



Two Voices
Friday, June 12th, 2009

There is a lot of personal experience woven into my novel, Night Navigation, but from the moment I started writing it, I worked to find a way to make the leap into “real” fiction; I did not want this to be “my story.” I wanted it to be the story of what was left of a family — an adult man, Mark Merrick, and Del, his mother — after the suicide of Mark’s father and brother.

The main way I chose to create a novel, rather than autobiography, was to move back and forth between the two voices of son and mother. By working in the point of view of a manic-depressive 37-seven year old man who was addicted to heroin, I was able to enter places I could never have gone if I had chosen to work in the “I” of memoir or spoken only in the voice of Del Merrick.

Also, strangely enough, Mark, the mostly imagined character, was much easier to create, while Del, who was a lot like me, tended to go on and on with all the backstory she thought essential, but which really just bogged things down.

Here’s an example of how differently each of these characters spoke to me when I sat alone and worked on reinventing their two worlds:

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Posted by Ginnah Howard  /  Filed under Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: 0



Katherine, the Early Years
Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

My stepdaughter Katherine’s high-school years were like most teenagers.  She was a good student, had great friends, acted in school plays, and sang in the chorus.  She was the center of laughter with a creative mind. 

We shared her excitement when the University of San Diego accepted her and we sent her off beaming with pride for what we thought would be some of the best years of her life.  We wanted to believe she was going to experience everything positive that comes from a college freshman’s first time away from home – dorm life, new friends and feelings of accomplishment. 

But at some point she deviated from the normal college experience and entered a fast-paced world of addiction and chaos. 

It began with hair variations (many colors), weight change and body piercing.  In the beginning these behaviors, by themselves, did not appear to be anything other than experiments with her new-found independence.  Her father and I were not happy with any of these decisions but we rationalized it as typical freshman behavior. Looking back on it now, it’s clear that these were early signs of her drug use.

On another visit we noticed bolder actions.  This time, not only was her hair an issue, but more body piercings were on display.  I will never forget the shock on her father’s face when he first saw her flashy tongue piercing and bright blue hair.  Katherine routinely asked for more food money because she was always running low.  She responded to the discussion of grades with resistance (we later found out that she was on academic probation.)

Visits home during the holidays became confrontational with new “friends” showing up at our door – we later discovered that she used her computer to network and meet dealers and meth users online.  The neon lights were flashing as we began to notice this new Katherine.

Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Warning Signs  /  Comments: 0



Parenting Troubled Teens
Thursday, May 14th, 2009

When some kid is screaming for candy in the checkout line and the mother is reaching for the Hershey’s bar, I want to grab hold of her, like most people, and say, “Don’t do it!” However, because my own children had serious problems with drugs and I was so unaware during their teen years, I feel very uncomfortable even discussing parenting, let alone giving advice. But I can offer some thoughts on what a mother might do for herself.  Much of this learned from positive experiences gained through years of therapy and going to Al-Anon and NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) meetings.

My first suggestion: Don’t isolate. It’s important to connect with parents who have similar troubles and fears in some sort of support structure that keeps the sharing healthy: mainly that there is no cross-talk or advice giving. No cross-talk advice is the rule at Al-Anon meetings. Advice can be shaming. “Why don’t you just say no?” (If I could have just said no, I wouldn’t be here!)

One of the most common themes when parents open up is their feelings of guilt. Many of us who have children whose behavior is negative, causing concern and tension for all involved, often blame ourselves: What did I do wrong? And since none of us have been perfect parents, it is important to accept responsibility for ways that we have truly failed. But it is also important not to think it’s all about you. Once a counselor said to me after a self-blame session, “Do you really think you have that much power over your children’s lives? They live in the world. There are other factors.”

Another important Al-Anon lesson: One of the greatest contributions you can give to your family is for you not to get pulled into the craziness, to minute by minute rebalance. Also it is essential to develop counterbalances in your daily life, practices that offer you personal refuge and happiness. Practices that interrupt the obsessive thoughts which steal your present moments.

As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh says: Be aware of all the non-toothache time. For me that counterbalance has been writing. I am now working on my third novel: a trilogy-in-progress. Not writing as therapy, but writing as a place where I can dance in the moment of words. “Now” is really all we have.

Posted by Ginnah Howard  /  Filed under Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more






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