Intervene

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




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



Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better? A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part IV
Thursday, April 25th, 2013

When it comes to addiction treatment, too often there is a disconnect between what people with an addiction need and what they get. Combine that with the stigma, desperation and fear that accompany the disease of addiction, time and again, present seemingly insurmountable odds for the addicted person to overcome. In this, the final installment in a four-part series of my Q&A with award-winning journalist Maia Szalavitz, Ms. Szalavitz weighs in on “Addiction Treatment: How Can We Make Things Better?”

JERRY OTERO: Most of the media stories about addiction are often tied to something sensational, like a celebrity death. What will motivate journalists to pay more attention to this issue and, in turn, create more awareness and education among their readers/viewers? What kinds of stories would you like to see?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Hard to say how to get more attention to this (if I knew how, I’d do it!), but I would like to see reporters who cover this area question their own ingrained beliefs and not just assume that traditional treatment is the only way to recovery, that police are any kind of experts on the effects of drugs, that treatment providers are impartial experts (use academic sources who know the data; you wouldn’t go to a pharmaceutical company for unbiased perspective on its own products) or that current policies are the most effective way to deal with problem.

JERRY OTERO: What’s your biggest wish for change in the addictions field?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: That addiction be seen as a health problem and truly treated that way, with evidence-based treatment in which the traditional harsh approach would be as unacceptable as it would be for doctors to treat cancer patients as immoral malingerers.

JERRY OTERO: Anything parents can do to bring about this change?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Advocate for evidence-based treatment and policy change that recognizes that addiction problems cannot be solved by the criminal justice system and treat people with addiction with compassion.

This concludes our Q&A with Maia Szalavitz. I want to thank Ms. Szalavitz for sharing her insights with our readers, and for weighing in on topics that are important for parents and other caregivers.

Are you a parent or caregiver of a teen or young adult struggling with a substance abuse problem? Please visit the online community at The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Time To Get Help.

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. She is co-author of Born for Love: Why Empathy is Essential — and Endangered, (Morrow, 2010), 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) and the author of Help at Any Cost: How the Troubled-Teen Industry Cons Parents and Hurts Kids (Riverhead, 2006).

Posted by Jerry  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Drugs, Finding Treatment, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: 1



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



Wonder and Worry: Can I Save My Daughters From Drug Addiction?
Thursday, November 15th, 2012

As a parent in recovery, I look at my children’s faces every day and I wonder and worry.

I wonder, with everything I know and everything I’ve learned, will I be able to save them from the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse? I wonder about the “gene” and the fact that I know there are many in both my family and my husbands’ that have it.

I worry about my children’s environment: the drug pushers, the “cool” friends and doctor’s writing careless prescriptions—all out there potentially giving my beautiful, innocent daughters something that could threaten their lives.

I worry about the things I say, the things that happen on the playground at school. I worry about the things that could happen to them emotionally that could somehow predispose them to being receptive to actually trying a prescription drug to get high, and that that one time could be all it takes.

I guess I could wonder and worry about so many other things happening to them, but because I am in recovery myself, this is the one thing that is closest to my mind.

If I tried all of it, why wouldn’t they?

All I can do is hope and pray that if they do try it and they do get hooked, they get help. Maybe it would be the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) just like I did.

AA has changed my life so profoundly and on so many levels. It has put the tools for living and happiness right into the core of my being.Because of it, the black hole exists no longer, and my need to fill it with substances is gone. I have been given the ability to walk through life with faith and hope and trust.

I just hope that I can transmit some of these values and the inner peace I feel to my children and that I do whatever I can to prevent them from using drugs and alcohol. But if they go down the path of addiction, I hope they too will find sobriety and serenity just as I did.

I hope that by teaching them to allow themselves to feel their feelings and to always speak up when something is going on and to try not to hold the emotions in, they will be aided in keeping away from drugs. Maybe teaching them that negative emotions are not bad and should not be discarded or ignored or seen as something to distract ourselves from will be useful. I hope that by saying to them that negative feelings are as important as positive feelings and that in our life’s journey we have to learn to deal with both sides of the coin.

I wonder if any of this will help.

And I wonder, are there other parents in recovery out there that are thinking about the same things? If so, please share.

Posted by Pernilla Burke  /  Filed under Family History, Family members, parenting, Recovery  /  Comments: more



Make Your Holidays Happier: Establish Boundaries with Your Addicted Child
Tuesday, December 14th, 2010

Well, here we are again.  No sooner have we unwrapped our last miniature Halloween Snickers than we are being bombarded with Christmas.  Sometimes I think it would be nice if the holidays came around like the Olympics every 2 or 4 years; or if we could skip them altogether and just hang a sign on our front door saying “Gone fishin’… please come back after January 3rd.”

But, since none of those options are really doable, we are confronted with yet another holiday season where we hope that all things — people, food and presents — will be perfect.  After all, that’s what the ads promise.

Hmm… a lovely thought, but what if you’re anxious about spending the holiday with the drug-addicted child  in your life?

During this time of year, many of my clients look for guidance on how to establish and secure their boundaries with their addicted child.  They want to include him or her in the family festivities and are pulled toward family unity but at the same time anxious about the unpredictable behavior. They have witnessed other occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries or just plain Sunday night dinner, when the drug-addicted child arrived intoxicated or just sported a really poor and dower attitude and all hell broke loose due to anything or nothing.  Since the past is a teacher, we can’t help but be apprehensive — yet hopeful that maybe this time will be different.

To ease your mind, establish some simple, respectful boundaries with your drug-addicted child. Here are some suggestions:

1. Arrive at the designated time, being well-groomed and dressed appropriately.
2. Be clean and sober is paramount to participation.  If you smell alcohol on their breath or he or she acts intoxicated or high you will not let him in, or if they live there, you will ask them to stay away from the festivities until the event is over.
3. A cheerful and kind demeanor is also an entry ticket as anger or a “woe is me”, chin-on-the-buttons attitude is unwelcome.

Pick boundaries that are important to you and that your child MUST adhere to  or he or she will not be welcome to participate in the family festivities.  Keep the boundaries simple, doable, short and to the point. There is no need to defend yourself regarding your decisions and if you don’t engage and stay neutral you will be perceived as having a plan that is thought out and smacks of self-respect.

Don’t let your boundaries be built on quicksand where you acquiesce because your child spins an excuse as to why they have not lived up to his or her end of the bargain and resorts to tugging at your heartstrings or by yelling and screaming.  Please don’t fall prey to thinking, “Oh well, I’ll overlook this because it’s the holidays.” Or “It’s the holidays and I just don’t want to be unhappy or make my loved one unhappy.”

If your child doesn’t like your holiday rules, be committed to a response like, “That makes me sad that you won’t be joining us, but that’s your choice.”  He now has to shoulder all the responsibility for his decision even though he may try to blame you.  As disheartening as that outcome may be, you are taking care of yourself and the other members of your family and in the long run you will have earned a new found respect not only from the addicted child, but family members and friends as well.  After all, there is a bigger picture here, than just appeasing one person in a larger family unit.

Holidays can be wonderful and fun.  But they are certainly more enjoyable if there is warmth and love, coupled with respect and dignity toward one another.  After all, it should be a time of reflection on the abundance of gratitude that the year has brought.  Hopefully your addicted child can participate with family and friends as he would like and as you would like.  However, it’s ok if it doesn’t happen this year for this particular holiday.  After all, there is myriad of other occasions to celebrate from Valentine’s Day to Easter that are right around the corner.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about improving your relationship with your addicted child, explore Carole Bennett’s new book Reclaim Your Life.  Do you have a child struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction?  Visit Time To Get Help our new resource and online community for parents offering expert guidance, support and answers.

Posted by Carole Bennett  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more



My Own Daughter’s Relapse
Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

We’re excited to introduce new blogger Carole Bennett, MA to the community!  Carole is author of the new book “Reclaim Your Life – You and the Alcohol/Addict” (www.reclaimyourlifebook.com) and the founder of Family Recovery Solutions, a counseling center for family and friends of loved ones with a drug or alcohol problem.  She is the mother of 21-year-old “Lucy.”

I want to share something very personal with you; my own daughter’s relapse.  I doubt if I would be the complete clinician if I did not walk in some of your shoes, share the same trials and tribulations, victories and successes.  So, I’m hopeful that you won’t be offended if I share my recent heartache and despair with you.

My daughter (let’s call her Lucy) was and is a beautiful woman of 21.  Though every mother thinks their child is beautiful, Lucy really is.  Almost 6 feet tall, a knockout figure, dark straight hair, olive skin and almond shaped smoldering eyes.  She could have easily been a model.  I can say this, as she is adopted, so I had nothing to do with her amazing looks.  However, this beautiful young lady is covered with tattoos scattered about her body with little or no thought as to what she is permanently inking.  One looks like a car engine and is supposed to be a music box; another is a musician that I don’t think she has ever heard of and whose hair covers most of his face.  Her ear lobes sport gages that are so big, the middle part of a sugar ice cream cone would fit comfortably through it.

Though I’m not thrilled that Lucy has decided to permanently use her body as a grease board, it does not make me love her any less.

Let me take a paragraph or two to give you a little history.  As I said, Lucy was adopted and from an early age started pulling out her hair.  Defiant toward teachers and combative at every turn toward her father and me, Lucy would fly into uncontrollable temper tantrums. By the time the 7th grade rolled around, Lucy could not attend the public school system and was sent to alternative schools in and out of California that specialized in behavioral issues.  I honestly don’t know when the dabbling into drugs took effect, but dabbling quickly turned into addiction.  Lucy became a garbage pail for any drug from acid to mushrooms to heroin.  Cutting and anorexic type behavior became the norm as well.

Lucy managed to graduate from high school and opted to live with her birth grandparents in Oregon.  Our communication at that time was tense and volatile and I had no idea if she was clean and sober or continuing with her addiction.  Lucy made it clear that she had no interest in considering any of my suggestions   for continued education or career choices.

After a few years of doing little but lying on the couch, Lucy moved to Los Angeles and reconnected with some family members professing that she needed a fresh beginning for her life.  Lucy swore that she was clean and sober, and these family members embraced her with open arms.  Sadly, sobriety was the last thing on her mind, and so started the revolving door of rehabs and sober living housing.

Gratefully, somewhere along the way, Lucy did embrace a clean and sober life style.  She attended AA meetings regularly, had a sponsor, and got a job and her own apartment.  On her first year birthday of sobriety, we gathered like a flock of geese holding wads of Kleenex as we watched our loved one receive her one year chip.  Finally, after all these years, maybe, just maybe Lucy might be on her way to experiencing the goodness that a sober lifestyle has to offer and we in turn could take a long awaited sigh of relief. That was 14 months ago.

Sadly and unfortunately many alcoholic/addicts become complacent about their recovery.  They foolishly think they can start to pick and chose their recovery path believing that they now have learned when to cut off their alcohol intake, or because their drug of choice was alcohol, one line of coke is no big deal. The recovering alcoholic/addict knows that this thinking is “b.s.”, but they forge ahead anyway.

So was true with my dear Lucy. She strongly stated that she hadn’t relapsed as smoking a joint 3 times a day had nothing to do with substance abuse.  However, that was just the beginning of the downward spiral. Lately when I see her, she is unfocused, easily agitated, defensive and dirty. This last week, a planned family dinner witnessed Lucy making several trips to the bathroom.  Was she throwing up her dinner, and back to the days of bingeing and purging, getting high or both?  Regardless, it was clear that her clean and sober days were over.

I have spent many sleepless nights and shed buckets of tears over my daughter’s disease and the devil that has her as a captive audience. But, there is nothing I can do, as she has not sought help and my involvement (for the umpteenth time) has more often than not proven futile.  I am left with prayer.  Praying that her “higher power” will take care of her and that hopefully one day, like once before, she will pick herself up from the ashes and scratch and claw her way back to a healthy lifestyle.

I share this story with you, so if you have experienced something similar, you will know that you are not alone.  There seems to be strength in numbers, even if you don’t know the person next to you. I am a professional counselor – an expert in my field, yet I don’t have the answers for my child, or can show her that her decisions are poor ones.  Instead my heart breaks with the same pain, sadness and fear that any loving parent has when their child is heading 100 miles an hour for a brick wall.

Thank you for allowing me to open up my heart and soul to a caring population of family members and friends who travel the same path as so many of us do on a daily basis.

Editor’s Note:  If you’re a parent of a child struggling with a drug or alcohol problem, please visit Time To Get Help — a new online resource and community from The Partnership at Drugfree.org.

Posted by Carole Bennett  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Recovery & Relapse, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more






Search





About this blog
Welcome to Intervene. We are a community of experts, parents and caring adults concerned about our teens’ alcohol and drug use and have come together to share our insights, inspiration, guidance and help.









A free service to help you determine if alcohol may be harming your health or putting you at risk.


Previous Posts


Categories


Archives


Tags




Donate Today


Drugfree.orgTime To Act!© 2014 The Partnership at Drugfree.orgThe Partnership at Drugfree.org does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. More.