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

Addiction as a Gift: Our Call to a Deep Spiritual Practice
Monday, March 26th, 2012

“I’m Tom, a grateful recovering addict.”

I have identified myself in this way in meetings and conventions for over 40 years. My intention is to put a new interpretation on the insidious disease of addiction. We all know the nightmares that accompany addiction. I invite you to move beyond the traditional ways addiction is looked upon, revealing the seemingly hopeless disease of addiction as an enlightening dilemma. I hope to introduce you to the revolutionary belief that for some individuals a life fraught with sickening addiction can quite possibly become a misunderstood gift and a blessing in disguise.

Currently there are countless studies and books written on the field of addiction and the vast and growing research on what is now termed “addictionology.” Though it is a fascinating area of contemporary and compassion-based health care, it is also encompassed within the realm of clinical rehabilitation centers, some of which are rife with discouraging statistics and sterile data. I speak from my heart and own experience.  I was once a hopeless addict whose life has been interrupted by a Higher Power.  My life was transformed by surrendering to the principles of The 12-Steps, which has led to a life that is devoted to the practice of meditation and service to others.

Addiction touches everyone. When an individual, his or her family member, or a close friend struggles with the malady, it eventually affects the lives of every member of society. In every country around the world, people have found a way out of their addiction. On a daily basis there are millions of people attending 12-Step meetings in almost every country on this planet. Be assured you are not alone.

The idea that the disease of addiction can only be treated by a spiritual transformation has been the motivating idea from the beginning. In the early 1930s, a hopeless alcoholic sought help from Carl Jung, a well known psychiatrist. The patient had resigned himself to the tormented reality that he suffered from the chronic inability to stop drinking. In those days, such people often ended up in jail or a mental institution and many lost everything that had been dear to them, including family, friends, careers and ultimately life itself. Addiction was viewed as a lapse in morality and had not yet been recognized as a medical disease.

This man came to Dr. Jung and asked for help. The psychiatrist frankly told him that although he was unable to help him, he had—on a few rare occasions—seen someone in the grips of alcoholism go through a profound personality change brought on by an intense spiritual experience. This visit to Dr. Jung set the foundation for other drunks to stay sober by helping each other and in turn practicing the spiritually-driven 12-Steps of recovery. The steps were designed to achieve the ongoing spiritual experiences that brought on the deep personality changes in our lives. One could argue that the steps were “given” to addicts by a higher spiritual realm, and Jung was as much a conduit as a cornerstone for the recovery movement. In his later years, Jung would be asked if he believed in God. Without hesitation Jung answered, “I know there is a God.” Yet the experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

I would not dismiss anyone’s pain caused by the disease of addiction.  If you are a family member or a close friend, let the experience be a calling card for your own spiritual practice. The programs of Alanon and Naranon can be your refuge, a sanctuary where you find understanding.  You may suddenly realize you’re not alone in this pain. This can be the beginning of a great adventure within, bringing to your attention that addiction is just one of many countless challenges we are called upon to face in life.

Kahil Gibran put it so eloquently in his book, “The Prophet”:  “Your Children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

Gibran was speaking the language of Alanon and Naranon long before their inception.  We must learn to detach and to love unconditionally. Once we start practicing spiritual principles we learn we can’t manipulate life to fit the conditions we believe will ensure our happiness. Instead we tend to each moment without judgment or criticism; acceptance of what is becomes our offering.

The 12-Step programs have been proclaimed as one of the most powerful spiritual movements of the twentieth century.  These programs provide support and guidance to offer hope where all hope was lost.  May loving kindness fill your hearts.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Forgiveness, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more

Teen Drug Addiction: When Parents Blame Themselves
Friday, March 26th, 2010

How should one deal with the anger that accompanies drug addiction? I mean your anger as a parent, not your child’s.

I feel that there has been much focus on confronting the child’s anger that parents fail to address their own – that’s dangerous. The illness of substance abuse requires two parties: the parent(s) and the child.  Unfortunately, all too often the addict is MIA.  And as hard as parents might try, forcing their child to have an epiphany is awfully difficult. Especially as teenagers when they are often unprepared to accept the responsibility that an epiphany requires.

It’s maddening. Feeling frustrated at their failings mixed with the natural parental instinct to spare your child usually leads to anger at oneself.

To a parent, if your child is failing, that means you failed. Few people will be rude enough to actually say that. Our society merely implies it, like when a friend’s child graduates from college and they ask, So when is your kid going to college?

Self-anger becomes self-loathing, eroding your self-esteem. Sounds like the playbook to becoming

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted by Gary Morgenstein  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child  /  Comments: more

A New Hope For Addiction Treatment
Tuesday, August 18th, 2009

Hello everyone. As a guest blogger on Intervene I will share my ideas for bringing the latest scientific findings and treatments into the everyday clinical practice of alcohol and drug addiction treatment in this country. I will share my knowledge and expertise on the very important topic of how you can best position yourself andor your loved ones for optimal treatment success with long-term recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. My goal is to inspire hope and confidence in patients and their families that they can have an enjoyable drug-free life over time. To this end, I have worked hard with many creative, very bright people to build a variety of treatment resources that educate and support patients and their families through this process.  The two primary tools that I have helped to create are my new book, Healing the Addicted Brain, and a patient friendly website An excerpt from the book’s first chapter can give you a better understanding of what I am trying to accomplish here with the help of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America:

From Introduction, Healing the Addicted Brain

If you’re a member of an addict’s family, or perhaps a close sober friend, you feel as if you’ve heard too many failed promises to sober up, covered up too much bad behavior, watched the family be pulled apart and the finances drained, and stood by helplessly as dreams were shattered and the life of the addict slowly slipped away. You’ve been through the emotional wringer too many times and seen the latest “guaranteed treatment” fail repeatedly. Sometimes you wish you could just walk away from it all—but you know you can’t and feel absolutely stuck.

Through it all, whether you’re the addict or the family member, you’ve wondered if there is any point to treatment. Why have your hopes been dashed over and over again? Why not just accept the obvious fact that an addict is an addict, and addiction is ultimately untreatable?

Before they came to me for help, many of my patients and their families feel that way, with good reason. Traditionally, the success rate for addiction treatment was abysmally low. A few of the medicines we had available were effective, but their use was limited or restricted for various reasons. The treatment most health experts pinned their hopes on, talking therapy, was not very successful. As a result, most addicts, their families, and friends were repeatedly disappointed. Understandably, many simply gave up.

I’m here to tell you that you no longer have to feel helpless and hopeless. There is hope, new hope that stems from a new scientific understanding of the nature of addiction plus novel medicines that finally allow us to control cravings and fix the physical damage to the brain caused by addiction. We now know that addiction is a chronic brain disease, that brain damage interferes with the addict’s ability to respond to talking therapy, and that once the physical brain damage has been repaired, talking therapy and other elements of traditional treatment can be very successful.

We’re at the beginning of a new era in addiction medicine, armed with a fresh view of the disease plus high-tech medicines and other treatments that will allow success for up to 90 percent of those who seek help. This is not just a tremendous improvement in the treatment rate; it represents a paradigm shift that will help us to turn the understanding of addiction from a shameful habit that destroys lives into a treatable illness.

As you can see from this excerpt, you as a parent or patient have your work cut out for you if you want to get excellent alcohol and drug treatment. I assure you though that it can be done, and I believe that it will be worth your time to invest in learning more about how to accomplish this success.

I plan to post at least weekly on this site, but in the interim all of my thoughts and knowledge on the topic have been poured into the above two resources — my book and the website, so you can get started right away with the learning process. What you need to learn as a parent is not “rocket science,” rather, you just need to understand a variety of easily understood issues and then do your best to ensure that you or your child is receiving services in these areas. If not, ask about what you are not getting and work to figure out a way to get it.

Please feel free to share your questions.  I am here to help you in this process.  Thanks for reading.

Posted by Harold C. Urschel III, MD, MMA  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Finding Treatment, Treatment, Writing About Addiction  /  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

Warning Signs of Drug Abuse
Thursday, May 14th, 2009

When do you know when a loved one is suffering from an addiction? Is it when you notice their growing distance? After too many of their lies have caught up with them? Or perhaps, it is the more subtle moments, when their actions border on the fringe of normalcy and intuition jumps in to warn us that something’s off? For my family the signs were vividly present yet camouflaged with aspects of what appeared to be just teenage behaviors. Looking back I realized, with great anguish, how my stepdaughter Katherine’s disease of addiction manifested right before our very eyes as early as high school. But it wasn’t until college that we finally knew she was using. We thought she was just going through a phase of self-discovery and testing authority with standard acts of rebellion. Little did we know she was experimenting with hard drugs and slipping away further. Before long, drugs had destroyed her sense of family, self-respect and zest for life. Meth had devoured everything she and our family held dear. Our beloved little daughter turned her back on us, shut us out and anchored in a place of loneliness; hopelessness and absolute devastation…and it took everything in our power to get her back.

Katherine’s story is not just ours. Too many families continue to witness the devastating effects of addiction. So as a parent who has witnessed it all and come out the other side with a healthy loved one in full recovery, I would like to share Katherine’s story with you. Over the next several weeks, I will be blogging about her journey from dissent to recovery.

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


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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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