Intervene

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




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



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



7 Tips on How to Discuss a Child’s Drug Addiction with Your Other Children
Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Blogger Carole Bennett, MA is author of the 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.

Discussing Drug Addiction in the FamilySubstance abuse within a family is a devastating, gut-wrenching problem.  It can tear at the very fiber of even the strongest family 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

How do responsible parents communicate with their other healthy, children about the disease that has infected their other sibling?  Confusion, uncertainty and insecurity abounds for children who don’t understand why their brother or sister is sleeping all day, acting crazy, looking funny and no longer participate with the family.

I believe that being honest and open to your child/children about their sibling’s substance abuse issues is respectful and fair.  Don’t forget that children are very intuitive and if they see their parents speaking in hushed tones when it comes to their sibling or witness an emotional and/or physical change they will realize something is up.

Here are seven tips for parents on how to begin a conversation about substance abuse in the family:

1.) Pick an easy, comfortable time to chat with your kids.  Maybe a picnic in the park or a meal at their favorite restaurant is a good backdrop.

2.) Though it is a big deal, don’t make it so in the conversation.   Parents should be able to tell the truth in a way that children are able to understand and prepare themselves for the changes that will happen in the family. For many kids, routine helps them feel safe. So if life becomes unpredictable, they will need help adjusting to the changes.

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Posted by Carole Bennett  /  Filed under Addiction, Confronting Teens, Family members  /  Comments: 1



Coping With Family Tragedies: Divorce, Addiction & Suicide
Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Teenager Chase Block faced a lot at an early age – his parent’s divorce, his mother’s drug addiction and later, her tragic suicide. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Chase wrote a book about his experiences in hopes of helping other teens. While his book offers practical, mature, no-nonsense advice for young people, it has something for parents, too — a unique window into the mind of today’s teens.  For a chance to win a copy of his book Chasing Happiness, please see the end of this post for details.

I was a 13-year-old kid growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, when I decided I wanted to help other kids whose parents were divorcing.  My own folks split when I was 6, and then had other relationships, marriages and divorces. I felt I could help my friends learn what to expect when they were facing similar family shifts.

I decided to write a book of practical tips and advice on how to survive divorce – from a kid’s perspective. The day before I actually began working with an editor on the book, my mom killed herself.

My beautiful, wonderful mom, who was dearly loved by everyone, lost her decades-long battle with mental illness, an addiction to pills, and alcoholism. She took her own life eight years after she and my dad split up. I was shocked and confused – but I didn’t want to forget the book. As horrible as I felt, I knew other kids would go through this stuff too, and maybe my story could help them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Chase Block  /  Filed under Addiction, Family History, Substance Abuse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more



When it Comes to Addiction, There are No Simple Answers
Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

An excerpt from The Los Angeles Diaries by James Brown:

My beautiful sister, in the beginning alcohol and drugs bring you relief.  They give you courage and confidence and then slowly, over a period of years, they strip it all away and you spend your final years struggling to fill the emptiness that it’s left inside you.  It’s futile, it’s madness, and my drinking and using will one day take me down the same path.  I will fight with my wife as you fought with your husband.  I’ll explode for no reason and phone you late at night, drunk and wired, while my children cry in the background.  These memories hurt, and I have others, many far worse.  They accumulate over the years, and instead of fading with time they only grow more vivid.  The shame and remorse builds.  The load grows heavier as we age, and I understand now how every day you find yourself a little closer to that overpass above the Los Angeles River.  My beautiful sister, we are drunks.  We are addicts, and we behave recklessly without regard for the consequences of our actions.  Sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly, we destroy the ones we love as surely as we destroy ourselves.

This excerpt is taken from a chapter of my memoir, The Los Angeles Diaries, which is dedicated to the memory of my sister and brother.  Alcoholism runs deep in my family, and it’s spared no one.  As a recovering alcoholic, I eventually had to come to terms with my addiction and attendant insanity.  Simply put, it was either change or die.  I could not continue to live and drink, and, perversely, I could not for the longest time live without drinking.  My brother ended his same struggle with a bullet at the age of 27, an empty fifth of Ten-High on the night stand beside him.  After one last binge, my sister leaped to her death onto the concrete banks of the Los Angeles River.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by James Brown  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Family History, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more



Peer Pressure is What Made Me Use Drugs and Alcohol
Wednesday, December 30th, 2009

As a young girl, two of the more traumatic things I went through were growing up with an alcoholic parent and my parents’ divorce. I tried to stuff the void I experienced with drugs and alcohol.  I never even considered the idea that I might become an alcoholic or drug addict, and I swore to myself that I would never end up like my father.  However, as I would later find out, the cards were stacked against me.  My family’s long history of drug and alcohol addictions played a huge role in where I ultimately ended up. The lifestyle itself was so familiar to me that it didn’t even register that I wouldn’t be able to stand up to the pressure to succumb to it.

I was starved for attention as a kid, and I didn’t have the coping skills I needed to go through the kinds of things the adults around me were putting me through. I became a great actress, with the ability to mold myself into what others wanted me to be, a trait that came in handy once I started using full time. The fact that I gave into peer pressure

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Posted by Lauren King  /  Filed under Alcohol, Family History, Recovery  /  Comments: more



Co-Occurring Disorders
Monday, June 29th, 2009

We live in a society of excess, where street drugs are readily available, so it is not surprising that many teens experiment with drugs. However, more is known now about teenagers who are not only experimenting, but who are self-medicating because they have other disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Dealing with a child who has co-occurring disorders is of course even more difficult. If you are reading this blog, this already means your eyes are open and you’re taking steps to be fully informed.

For me the most challenging part of parenting has been that in my family, substance abuse has been intensified by co-occurring mental illness and a family history of genetic vulnerability. So much more is known now about the brain and chemical imbalances than when my husband and I and our children first began to experience the ravages of both in the early 1960s. Truly, we hadn’t a clue.

Months before my wedding, the man I was to marry, the star athlete and class president I had fallen in love with five years earlier in high school, climbed out onto the ledge of my mother’s fifth-floor New York City apartment, and in a state of drunken bravado, threatened to jump.

Off and on over our fourteen years together and the parenting of two children, he continued to go through episodic periods of binge drinking accompanied by wild behavior and threats of suicide. In 1977, when my children were eleven and thirteen, he did kill himself.

All through these episodes, we always thought of it as a problem with alcohol. It was not until his death, and when I finally sought professional help, that I realized that of course he had a mental illness, most likely a bipolar disorder.

And even though I was now much better informed, I still did not fully understand how vulnerable my children were. It was not until they reached their 20s that one of my children became willing to see his problems in terms of co-occurring disorders. The other son never sought help and ended his life at the age of 28.

When mental illness and suicide are part of a family’s history, the whole question of when to hang on and when to let go becomes much more complicated. Drawing the line when someone is in the midst of a psychotic break is more than a tough call.

Though it is important not to rush into labeling a difficult teenager, not to rush into medication as the answer, parents are wise to become informed about symptoms and seek counsel with highly qualified professionals who can keep an eye on what’s going on, especially if there is some family history of depression or manic behavior.

My husband’s father, a man who majored in psychology in college and was the director of a children’s home in a large city for many years — and who himself carefully monitored bouts of acute anxiety — revealed to me after my husband’s death that when he himself was a boy, he would come home from school hoping his mother had not stuck her head in the oven, as she had threatened to do before he and his sister had set out that morning.

I do not want to end on such a bleak note. Though I am reluctant to steal any more secrets from family members, I do want to say that my son has gone through a long period of recovery and is now, day by day, leading a productive, creative life.

Posted by Ginnah Howard  /  Filed under Co-Occurring Disorders, Family History, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more






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