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

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

Losing Your Mind Doesn’t Help Anyone
Monday, May 18th, 2009

What parent hasn’t wished their addictive teen would simply disappear? “Antarctica is lovely this time of year; we’ll send your gloves.” As for visions of sprinkling arsenic on their Hot Pockets, well…

Terrible bad mean selfish parents. Or perhaps not selfish enough. All parents have felt this surge of bitter resentment. Who’ll dare admit that outside of group or individual therapy or in hushed whispers to a best friend? ‘Cause otherwise you’re ripe to be reported to social services.

As if bankrupting your savings on therapists/private schools/wilderness programs/escorts/lawyers/residential treatment centers, shredding your relationships (what must the divorce rate among parents of teen addicts be?), undermining your work performance (yes the boss is a jerk for not understanding why you can’t concentrate) and ingesting way too many Ho-Hos (don’t they stack neatly on the treadmill?) isn’t sufficient (plus of course their addiction is all our fault), you feel guilty for expressing feelings of normal anger.
Why? Because we’ve ceased to exist as independent life forms. Everything is sublimated to the sick child fighting a terrible illness. Any reason we parents talk to our cereal spoons?

Yet we’re still breathing, more or less. And there must be times when you think of yourself first because if you lose your mind, you’re no good to anyone. Dead heroes might make stirring role models, but lousy parents; who’ll drive them to the mall? How can you make coherent decisions half-addled? How can you expect your child to have normal feelings if you don’t?

Martyrdom does have its appeal, but not long-term. You must find ways to separate yourself from the craziness. Go to the movies. Shop ‘til you drop. Have a date with your partner. Sneak off for a glass of wine. Okay, okay, I know, but we’re only human. Guess what? If we don’t take their calls or check the morgue every 10 minutes, life will go on. It’s imperative ours does, too. We are entitled. Because when they get better, and they will, it’s important that you and your family members recover, too — we all need a life to return to.

Posted by Gary Morgenstein  /  Filed under Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: 1

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


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.

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