Intervene

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




Does Relapse Mean Failure?
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Does Relapse Mean Failure?

He relapsed, does that mean he failed? HELL YES, over and over the same old crap!!! Won’t he ever GET IT???!!! (Expressed very loudly by a father of an addict: me.)

No, no, no, this isn’t a rant of today. Everything is still good with my son. These are the words that still echo in the walls of our home.

We all evolve and learn in the process of parenting an addict. When I first entered this world, my way of thinking was cut and dried. You either recovered or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you failed.

Well, learning is hard, especially if you happen to be an adult.  And when learning involves first unlearning what you believe to be true, it is particularly difficult.

I struggled a lot. It literally took me years to understand what so many people told me over and over, relapse is a part of recovery. It was hard to accept this idea when I couldn’t relate it to what I’d experienced and believed in my life.

I can remember sending Alex off to his first inpatient rehab. So easy that was. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Send him away, write a really big check and he comes home cured. Boy was I dumb!

It didn’t take long for the anger to surface. Two weeks, in fact. What the hell, two weeks and it is the same old thing — except my bank account is minus $6000.

Fast forward through a lot of anger, time and way too many more dollars than I want to think about. Relapse is a part of recovery. I don’t know the statistics on how many addicts “get it” the first time, but they aren’t really relevant to our story.

What I have learned is that recovery is a process that involves many things and numerous variables of which relapse is one component. That’s not to mean I accept relapse because it is part of the package it just means I have a better grasp of the process and I am able to live in reality.

Does relapse mean failure?

Failure is the act of not trying. This is how I broke it down in simple terms and concepts for myself. When I was younger I water skied a lot. The first time I ran a slalom course I fell, if I remember right it was on the first ball. When I tried to trick ski I fell on my first 360.

Failure wasn’t me falling. Failure would have been if I climbed into the boat and never skied again. Failure isn’t the result of not succeeding. Failure is the result of not trying or giving up.

No matter how many times it takes.

To learn more, read 5 Things You Need to Know About Relapse.

(proof Darlene and I were young once upon a time)

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, parenting, Recovery & Relapse, relapse, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



5 Things You Need to Know About Relapse
Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

People in recovery and their families are often terrified of relapse. Understanding the following 5 points may help.

1. Relapse is common. Although relapses are not inevitable, they are common. Many people have one or more relapses before achieving long-lasting sobriety or abstinence. This does not mean the end of efforts toward abstinence and recovery. The person needs to get back into treatment and the family needs to continue attending a support group, professional counseling, or both.

2. Work together to prevent relapse. People in recovery may have frequent urges to drink or use drugs, and feel guilty about it, even though these urges are a normal part of recovery. It’s important to work together to anticipate high-risk situations (such as a party where alcohol will be served) and plan ways to prevent them.

3. Relapse can happen during good times, too. Sometimes relapse occurs when the person is doing well with their recovery. He or she feels healthy, confident, and/or “cured” and believes that he or she is ready to go back to casual, regular or “controlled” use of drugs or alcohol. The person may remember the honeymoon period of their use (even though it may have been long ago) — where his or her use didn’t cause problems — and may want to return to that place. But this is often impossible since addiction changes the physical makeup of the brain and the person is recovery is no longer able to use drugs or alcohol in a controlled fashion.

4. If relapse occurs. Medical professionals, particularly those who specialize in substance use disorders, are an extremely important asset during a time of relapse. They can help the person learn techniques for containing feelings, focusing on the present, and making use of support from others. Relying on group support from Twelve Step programs, engaging in prayer or meditation, and finding other ways to stay on an even keel can also be extremely helpful.

5. Learn from relapse. Experts have found that a relapse can serve as an important opportunity for the recovering person and other family members to identify what triggered the relapse in the first place — and find ways to avoid it in the future.

Posted by Intervene Staff  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Drugs, Family Therapy, getting help, parenting, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse, relapse, Substance Abuse, Twelve Step, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



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



8 Personal Conclusions I’ve Reached as the Parent of an Addict in Recovery
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

My son stopped using over two years ago. For seven years he was addicted to drugs and, by the end, was a heroin addict. Today he is drug-free and working to put his life back together.

There are countless books and websites about addiction, rehab and recovery. Most of them are filled with valuable information that helps both the addict and the parent. I won’t discredit anything on these sites or in these books, but I want to share what I have learned about being the parent of an addict in recovery, not from reading but from experience — no long-drawn processes or lengthy explanations. These are just some realizations that seem to help me.
father and son talking outside1. Recovery is hard. Sometimes your child needs a hand. Make sure your hand is out for them to grasp when needed. But don’t hold on too long.

2. Addicts dig deep holes for themselves. Contrary to what you may think, filling the hole is faster when only one person has a shovel. If you help to shovel, it will take longer to fill the hole.

3. Forgiveness is for me. The sooner I understand, the faster I heal.

4. “Believe” or “doubt?” I choose to believe. Have you ever had someone tell you that they believe in you?

5. Normal is right. “Fragile. Handle with Care” is not stamped in big red letters on a child in recovery. To stop using drugs or alcohol means he or she wants a normal life again.

6. Nagging, suspicious looks and reminders of past mistakes really irritate me. Addicts in recovery probably don’t need them either.

7. His recovery is his to manage. I know that for the last seven years, he hasn’t been able to manage ANYTHING. But we all have to learn and begin someplace.

8. I love you. That is a reassurance we ALL need.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, Hope, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Writing About Addiction  /  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



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



The Mindful Addict: Tom Catton’s Spiritual Road to Long-Term Drug Recovery
Friday, March 9th, 2012

The Partnership is excited to introduce our new blogger, Tom Catton. Tom has been in long-term recovery since October 20, 1971 is the author of The Mindful Addict: A Memoir of the Awakening of a Spirit, which highlights Tom’s relationship with meditation in combating his addictions. Tom is on the advisory board at the Buddhist Recovery Network and is trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

The following excerpt from my book “The Mindful Addict” gives a hint of the adventures that occurred during forty years of placing recovery above all else and learning to follow my heart through the practice of meditation each morning. If “The Mindful Addict” were summed up in a few words, I would say it is a miraculous adventure story about what can occur when meditation is coupled with service to others.

I used alcohol and drugs from 1959 until October 20,1971. I always say that I’m a blessed addict because I did all my using in the 60’s.

Growing up in Southern California and traveling to Hawaii as a teenager in 1962 to further my surfing endeavors seemed like that natural movement of the times. I lived the lifestyle that invited the use of drugs and alcohol. We were summoned by Tim Leary to turn on, tune in and drop out.

I went from drinking alcohol to sniffing glue, experimenting with LSD and other mind expanding drugs. Soon I was using needles to inject any substance for a quicker response. If a drug could be dissolved in a spoon, I used it.  

I went to my first 12- Step recovery programs meeting on the North Shore of Oahu in 1968.   I proceeded to bounce in and out of recovery for three years until I was sick of being “sick and tired.” The gift of recovery often waits for this opportune time to enter our lives when we see our own best thinking brought us to a veritable skid row in our mind, body and soul.

Excerpt from The Mindful Addict:
3:45 a.m., February 10, 1968, Kaneohe, Hawaii. A tall, thin woman looking much older than her fifty-two years sits up in bed meditating. A cup of coffee rests on her nightstand, and a cigarette glows in the dark. She listens, in silence, to the small voice within, her shadow standing guard as she sits in the stillness, becoming one with the calm. Flobird meditates for several hours every morning, a habit she picked up in 1960 while getting into recovery in twelve-step programs.

She lives each day by the spiritual guidance she receives during meditation and diligently records the messages in her journal. Writing becomes automatic, a prayer in ink, and the spirit guiding her pen to identify her next assignment. At times her dialogue with God is intense, and at times she questions the assignment; but, she always steps into the unknown and does exactly as spirit guides her.

On this particular early morning, Flobird’s meditation leads her to the North Shore of Oahu, about 40 miles from Kaneohe. She hops into “Redbird,” her Fiat, and drives to the Sunset Beach area, just as she has been directed in meditation. Here, she finds a four-bedroom, completely furnished; wood-framed home nestled under the trees right on the oceanfront. Guided by an inner direction, she reaches above the doorjamb, locates the key, unlocks the door, and enters. Coincidentally, I lived next door to this house.

During the winter months, the waves on the North Shore are huge. This is the only time they break with gigantic force and must be at least twenty feet high before they are considered surfable by the locals. The energy from just one such a large wave, as it comes crashing down, is breathtaking, and the salt spray can be seen in the air for miles.

At night, the roaring waves sound like thunder, or an enormous gong echoing across the oceans from some unknown temple. Often they become so enormous they wash over the highway. Sometimes these monster waves can even level houses in their wake.
The North Shore community is relatively small, and everyone knows one another. Back in the 1960s, Haleiwa, the main village, had only two grocery stores and a bank. Today, it is a bustling town sought out by tourists from all over the world to watch or surf the killer waves.

This time and place was magical for those of us fortunate enough to live there. The community was dominated by surfers from around the world who competed in riding the giant waves at the world’s most famous surf spots dotting this five-mile stretch of coastline. There were also many so-called hippies searching for enlightenment through the use of drugs, including LSD and hashish, which were believed to lead to spiritual illumination. Some of these drug-using hippies were in both categories: they surfed, took a lot of drugs, but were ultimately looking for something greater. That was me.

In the early morning hours of this day, I was startled awake by the sound of a car on our street. With a new clarity entirely unfamiliar to me in the breaking dawn, I gazed out the window and saw a tiny red Fiat pull up to the vacant house next door. I watched curiously as a strange woman got out and walked calmly up to the house as if she indisputably belonged, as if placed there by mystical entitlement. I had no idea that this event would change my life forever.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Books about addiction, getting help, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Uncategorized, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



Negotiating Recovery
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

=Negotiating Drug RecoveryWe’ve all done it. Seldom, if ever does it work. We make deals; we are willing to sell our soul, our dignity and our future to an addict in an effort to stop the madness.

My efforts to negotiate recovery involved buying things, providing gifts, paying for medical treatment, rehab and rents. All this effort is a fruitless attempt to bargain away the addiction from my son. This all happens while we enable our addicts and deny the reality.

Then we begin to get smarter about enabling and stop wasting our treasures. But all that does is lead us to a new phase of negotiating. We begin negotiating with our self. We whisper inside that if I see this and this and that then I can do this and this and that.

How do you negotiate with an addict that has no sense of justice or fair play? How can you negotiate with an addict that suffers from a disease that results in behaviors a sane person would deem insane? An addict will not and cannot negotiate away their addiction. As long as you indulge in negotiating with addiction you have everything to lose and there is nothing to gain.

So what’s the answer? You must live in the world of a reality that involves seeing the picture as it is — not how you want it to be. Stepping back and taking in the holistic nature of this disease and how it not only affects the addict but all those that they touch is the first step. From that place I was able to see that negotiating was hopeless. Then it came down to figuring out where I actually stood in relationship to the disease and my relationship with my addict.

Related Links:
Overwhelmed: A Painting from My Journey to Recovery
Amidst Addiction & Recovery: An Attitude of Gratitude
7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Recovery  /  Comments: more



Part I: Dealing With Your Teen’s Relapse from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

=Wrong CrowdThis is a two-part blog post by Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, Yale Psychologist, Addiction & Motivation Expert, Speaker, Coach and author of INSTANT INFLUENCE: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast! (Little, Brown & Co., May, 2011)

A “Relapse” Scenario

Imagine your 17-year-old son has been doing really well — staying away from alcohol and pot for the past 6 months following a 28-day stay in rehab.  He’s back at school, his grades are good and he’s playing soccer again.  On top of that, his new friends seem supportive of his recovery.  As his parent, you feel you can finally breathe a small sigh of relief.

However, when your son comes home early from school one day without his backpack, you’re worried.  You confront him and his explanation makes sense: his last class was cancelled because a teacher became sick and there was no one available to sub; he did his homework earlier in the day and during part of the last period, so he didn’t need his backpack; and you already knew there was no soccer practice that day.  The next day everything seems back to normal.

Several days later, however, he comes to you and says that he would like to leave school early on Friday to go to a concert in the city.  When asked about how sensible that might be given that it might be a trigger for using and about the group of kids that he’s going to the show with, he becomes defensive and irritable.  A few minutes later he confesses that the day he came home early, he had slipped out of school right after first period to hang out with some old friends.  He ran into these old friends (the very crowd he used to use and drink with) on the way to school that day and instead of staying in school, he spent the day with them, playing Call of Duty (a popular shooter video game), and smoking and drinking, and that now he’s struggling with strong urges to continue using.

While he’s saying he doesn’t want to go back to the way he was, he also says, “I’m almost 17! Why can’t I have a drink now and then?!  I want to have fun.  Being sober is not fun.  I’m supposed to be having fun at this point in my life!”  Later, he confesses that he’d made plans to go to the concert with the old friends, but he’s still defending his ability to go with them and not use, stating that his new friends are “nice, but no fun at all.”

How do you feel?

What do you do?

How do you keep this relapse from blowing up in your and your son’s face?  Meaning, is there a way to help without making it worse?

You’re probably feeling a lot of different and conflicting feelings.  You’re angry, surprised and hurt, but you’re also worried, understanding and sympathetic.  We might all have the strong urge to immediately vent this barrage of emotions toward our child and, in the moment, we would feel justified in doing so.

However, many of us might instinctively know that to do so would not be helpful.  It might make your son more defensive and irritable.  He might then storm out of the house and go to the concert and resume drinking and pot use NOT simply because of the situation and the people he is with, but also because he now feels justified in doing so because he’s angry at his parents (whether or not it is actually justifiable in this manner).

The other thing is that your son IS actually feeling stressed and distressed about his recovery and the conflict he just had with his parents.  And since he’s learned in the past that alcohol and drugs immediately take this feeling away, we’ve just helped him create a new trigger for drug and alcohol use.

Not that you are to blame, but there are certain ways to handle relapses so that this does not happen.  While we as parents are not to blame when the sort of situation described above occurs, I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to learn ways to prevent it and even to use relapse as an opportunity to further strengthen our child’s recovery.

In my next blog post “An Overview of Relapse,” I describe a few ways to do just that.

Related Links:

Teens Only Listen to One Person…

Adjusting to Recovery: When Your Addicted Child Begins to Get Well

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

Posted by Michael Pantalon, PhD  /  Filed under Addiction, Alcohol, Confronting Teens, Marijuana, parenting, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse  /  Comments: more



A Welcomed Trend: Sober Campus Living
Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Sober Campus LivingThere are a growing number of services aimed at helping college students who are in recovery or struggling with a drug or alcohol problem. It’s no surprise since the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that Americans aged 18-24 are the fastest growing demographic group seeking treatment for substance abuse. SAMSHA data also indicates that the rate of heavy alcohol use is highest among Americans aged 20-22 and of that group, college student consumption is heaviest.

In an effort to accommodate the college student subset seeking treatment, we’re beginning to see more campuses support alcohol-free lifestyles.  As of today, 20 colleges have collaborated to form the Association for Recovery in Higher Education and welcome sober students.  Some of the participating schools include:

  • Texas Tech University boasts a Center for the Study of Addiction and Recovery with about 80 members in its “collegiate recovery community” which provides study-pods, recreational activities and campus 12-step meetings.
  • The University of Michigan’s Collegiate Recovery Program offers recovery courses, counseling and drug- and alcohol-free activities.
  • Penn State has allotted campus space and staff to its new student recovery program.
  • Kennesaw State University in Georgia — one of the Association’s founding members — has a community of 50 members, up from just three students in 2008.

Students at Texas Tech, for example, are proof that sober programs work.  Tech’s Center students have a 10-year graduation rate of 80% and a cumulative GPA of 3.34.

Campus sobriety is a privilege granted to those students willing to do the hard work of earning their degrees AND taking care of the precious commodity of living sober.

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Does your son or daughter attend a school that supports an alcohol-free lifestyle?  Please add to our list of schools and share which sober living aspects you like most.

Related Links:
10 Important Questions to Ask Sober High Schools
How to Help Your Teen Cope with New-School-Year Stress
Celebrating with Alcohol: A Reward for a Job Well Done?
My Thoughts on “How NOT to Raise a College Binge Drinker”

Posted by Beth Wilson  /  Filed under Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, getting help, Recovery, Sober High Schools, Treatment  /  Comments: 1






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