Intervene

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




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



Finding Addiction Treatment for Your Child: A Q&A with Maia Szalavitz, Part II
Tuesday, April 9th, 2013


Recognizing that your child needs substance abuse treatment can be emotional and overwhelming; and you may feel that your child’s addiction has taken over your family’s life. Here, we present Part 2 of a 4-part series of my Q & A with award-winning journalist, Maia Szalvitz. Today, Ms. Szalavitz shares some advice on how parents can find the right addiction treatment for their teens and young adults — and what they should avoid.

JERRY OTERO: What do parents need to know about the differences between girls and boys when dealing with substance abuse issues?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Mainly that everyone has individual needs and some of them relate to gender, like the fact that girls may be more likely to be depressed or that they may feel uncomfortable discussing issues of sexuality in mixed gender groups.  Mostly, it’s critical for everyone to be thoroughly evaluated before treatment is sought so that an independent assessment of these needs can be done by someone who doesn’t have a particular treatment in mind.  Note:  independent assessment should be done by a psychiatrist or psychologist, not an educational consultant who refers people to residential care.

JERRY OTERO: What should parents be cautious of when looking for the right treatment for their child? What about programs that “whip kids into shape?” And, is there a difference between boot camps and wilderness programs?

MAIA SZALAVITZ: Any treatment that wants to cut off or control communication between parent and child (outside of obvious abusive parents) for longer than a week or two should be viewed with extreme skepticism.  There is no therapeutic reason for this: love and support from family help treatment, they do not hinder it.

Any program that tells parents to expect bizarre complaints or reports of abuse and ignore them should be avoided.  A program that goes on about children being manipulative liars is not safe because health complaints will be ignored and this can and has been deadly.

Programs that require 12-step work for teens— admissions of addiction and powerlessness— are not the best; programs which suggest and support them are fine.

Programs that use physical punishment or restraint or isolation should be avoided; you can’t whip someone with heart disease into a cure, nor can you do this with addiction.

Wilderness programs are different from boot camps in that the harsh treatment takes place in the woods or wilds rather than in a more military style but both have had serious abuses and there is no evidence supporting the idea that they are better than safer alternatives.  If a child likes the woods, a voluntary Outward Bound program may be healing, but forcing someone into camping and hiking isn’t addiction treatment.  If a child goes to a wilderness camp for normal teens, he also will be believed when he has a health complaint — but in “troubled teen” programs the complaints are dismissed so callously that it has lead to dozens of deaths.  They’re also either unregulated or not well regulated.

JERRY OTERO: Thank you so much, for your insights, Maia.

Readers, for more information about adolescent and young-adult alcohol and other drug abuse treatment and how to find the most appropriate care for your child and family, download The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Treatment e-book. This e-book will provide helpful and realistic information and advice to aid you in steering your child — and your family — toward recovery. Here, you will learn what alcohol and drug abuse treatment is, how to find the right type of treatment for your child, how to pay for treatment and the importance of taking care of yourself and your family.

Stay tuned next week for Part III of our Q&A“Changes in the Field, including Medication-Assisted Treatement”

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 12-Step, Addiction, Assessment, Finding Treatment, getting help, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



Cuisinart-Head: My Mom Was Spinning from My Brother’s Drug Addiction
Friday, February 15th, 2013

Like so many, my family has been touched by addiction. Our heads constantly spun for years as we tried to find the way to fix the addicts we love so dearly. Cuisinart-head is a term borrowed from a family addictions consultant – it perfectly described my mom’s mentality in the midst of my brother Chris’s addiction. Her head swirled with the familiar stew of questions parents of addicts will know all too well:

  • How does this facility compare to that one?
  • Where did Jane say she sent her son to? Did he like it?
  • Will Chris like Dr. Jones?
  • Why is Dr. Jones prescribing Lithium? What will it do to Chris?

Meds. Rehabs. The detox world tour. How can a mother desperate to help her son possibly make sense of all of this? Well, Mom tried. A discussion with one person would lead to another contact, and mom filled five notebooks with information. Chris may have gone through 12 facilities, but mom kept extensive notes on 25. She logged the 30 medications he was on over seven years and their associated side effects, along with notes from 28 providers she trusted. She called on any resource – published authors, researchers, psychiatrists, parents of other addicted children.

Mom was the super-case manager, addicted to Chris’s addiction and the quest to find the right program, therapist, coach, approach that would save him.  And Chris stood still, waiting for the next placement, or professional to meet with, seemingly unaware or unimpressed by Mom’s frantic efforts to keep him alive. We want to expect different behavior from an addict in response to an outpouring of loving effort, but those who have experienced this ride know that that rarely happens. Cuisinart-head can’t move an unwilling addict.

Addiction often causes this dynamic – a family consumed with information and plans for the addict and the addict unwilling/uninterested/unmotivated to change his or her behavior. For mom, research distracted her from her anger toward Chris, disappointment in his choices and frustration that he couldn’t just “stop using and return toward a normal life.” Instead of confronting uncomfortable emotions, it was easier to obsess over how to solve the problem. This thought stew can become at least a coping mechanism if not an outright addiction unto itself.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, Mom’s mental “spinning” didn’t solve Chris’s addiction. It made her feel as though she was “doing something,” and it did generate options but also created a lot of anxiety and second-guessing. Mom’s hyper-focus on the details obscured the real loss she mourned: her dreams for her son’s future.  But we now know that distress over a loved one’s future as a non-addict can consume the family’s present with little result.

Thankfully, our story has a happy ending, and my brother is leading a productive, happy life in recovery.

Families often ask “What did it?” and the truth is there are probably a lot of factors – Chris was older, “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” financial support was cut off, his last treatment center was a good match with a strong young person’s AA community and focus on yoga and meditation.

Mom no longer spends her time in Cuisinart-head spells trying to fix him. A couple of years into the madness, my mom stepped back and realized this process could continue for years and went into individual therapy. She had a place with an impartial observer to share her fears for Chris’ future, discuss her anger toward him and relay her concerns for my father’s health, which had been impacted throughout Chris’ journey.  My mom’s therapist gave her the confidence to remain clear-headed in crisis and helped her manage her emotions in a healthy way, which improved her interactions with Chris and thoughts related to his care.

For those who struggle with Cuisinart-head now, I would encourage you to prioritize your physical and emotional health. My mom’s research and calls weren’t incorrect actions, but in isolation, they created an unhealthy obsession and belief that she could fix Chris’ addiction by finding the perfect option for him.  In her case, a therapist was able to provide guidance and a space for her to discuss what happens if none of her efforts worked.

I hope that you can find some hope in our story and that you call on resources in your local area. Share your story below, talk with a therapist or coach, attend Al-Anon or another peer support group, call The Partnership at Drugfree.org toll-free Parent Helpline (1-855-DRUGFREE) – seek out guidance from others to stop the spinning.

Posted by Arden O'Connor  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Family Therapy, Finding Treatment, getting help, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



Detaching With Love: How I Learned to Separate My Son and His Addiction
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

My son Alex shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times, when he was a minor, we’d get a call to come pick him up, and he’d get a ticket, and we’d pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.

When he turned 18, he was no longer a minor, and with his record they’d take him to jail. He’d make that phone call from jail, “Please come and bail me out. I’m never going to do this again.” Off we’d go. After a while, this was getting expensive. And my wife Darlene and I were not learning our lesson—and, by the way, neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over. Nothing was changing. He’d make the same promises, we’d take the same action, and we couldn’t understand why he kept using!

This is where the idea of “detaching” and setting boundaries started with us. We decided we weren’t going to pay bail next time.

But it wasn’t easy. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO, jail he witnessed a person getting stabbed. The food is universally bad at jails, and without money on your books, you can’t even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth. He had food stolen from him and at times had to fight to keep it. He spent two days in solitary confinement for defending himself against an inmate who attacked him. Some jails put the mentally ill in with criminals such as rapists and murderers, and then put them all in together with the drug addicts. It makes no sense to me.

It’s hard to think of yourself as a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars you could get your child out of those situations. You wonder: if I don’t pay the bail, am I really a loving parent? But eventually, the day comes when you don’t pay. We once let our son sit in the “Johnson County, KS, Resort” for 11 days because we wouldn’t post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn’t it?

This is about detaching with love and not enabling. Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries, this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.

Another value we hold close and taught our kids is that stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences, and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values, we were bailing him out. We hated what he was exposed to in jail; however, we had established a pattern: he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand.

Darlene and I sat down and determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to help us establish our boundaries. You can’t cover all of the possible situations; you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and fight the instinct to enable by rescuing, the exercise becomes easier and more natural.

Once boundaries are determined, you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time, and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, “Because we love you…” and then, for instance, “we can no longer bail you out of jail. All of your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart, so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision.”

For each boundary we had discussed, the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and asked him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him of our expectations, and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called, begged, pleaded and cried from jail, but what we had been doing in the past didn’t work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn’t mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.

Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street scoring and shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as “protective custody.”

We detached from Alex’s crimes and actions; we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10-for-10-minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended by saying that we loved him and asking him to please help himself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside, not the addiction controlling the life.

Today, Alex is two-and-a-half years sober.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Codependency, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family members, parenting, Patience, Substance Abuse, tough love, Uncategorized  /  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.