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

Alanon Helped Me Deal with My Addicted Child
Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

I have a daughter. She is the second of our four children and she is beautiful. I can remember back 21 years ago to the day of her arrival onto this earth, into our family, and it is one of my most precious memories. Her birth was fun, filled with joy and we were surrounded by people who love us. As the doctor guided her out into this world and held her slick shiny body up for me to see, I felt such happiness, such pure unadulterated joy that I had been given a girl child.

At 12 years old that same beautiful girl child took her first drink of alcohol. Little did she know that she had opened a door to years of drama and turmoil, years of ruined relationships, loneliness, and feelings of defeat. Years of being in pain. By the time she was 14 that beautiful girl child of mine had become a black-out drinking drug user.

We rationalized that she was experimenting. Lots of kids go through wild phases, but deep inside I think we knew that this was more than that. We were afraid and ashamed and in denial…not a good combination. We worked so hard at controlling and managing what had so obviously already spun out of our grasp. We didn’t want anyone to know the depths of our fear. We hoped and prayed it would pass. But it didn’t.

We sought counseling and thankfully we were directed to Alanon Family Groups. Alanon is a 12 step program for the families and friends of alcoholics and/or addicts. Little did I know I was about to be given a road map that would lead me back to sanity. Because I had most certainly resorted to crazy behavior all in the name of saving my daughter.

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Posted by Annette  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Denial, Enabling, Family History, Recovery & Relapse, Taking Care of Yourself  /  Comments: more

Acceptance: Regaining Trust and Rebuilding the Family Unit
Thursday, October 8th, 2009

With our emotional wound still open, our entire family, including my stepdaughter Katherine, began the process of building back the trust we once shared.  This would prove to be rewarding as well as exceptionally painful. 

Sitting, circular fashion in a room with at least 10 other families we openly disclosed our feelings of anger, fear, loneliness, distrust as well as resentment.  “Family Week” had begun and there would be no holding back as we were guided through various discussions with our loved ones.  The building blocks to fostering a new cohesive, trusting and loving family were being tossed around the room while we slowly, and painstakingly, examined the cracks that were created, their affects and how to seal them and move on.

The dynamics within the family are key to opening the doors to change.  When an addiction is present the need it is vital to focus on new ways of coping and “non-enabling” behaviors.  Both patients and family members often rationalize behaviors which creates an environment that hangs around like a thick fog — perpetuating feelings of inadequacies and creating the dysfunctional cycle that is extremely hard to break.

There were at least four general areas of focus that our family concentrated on, which I elaborate on below.  Keep in mind, that although I went through the recovery process with my stepdaughter, I am not a certified authority; I was just a family member trying to recapture and rebuild what was lost.  Every family’s issues will be different, yet similar in many ways.  Issues will surface and may compound as you work on restructuring your family -– it’s not easy.  But having experts, who allowed us to express our emotions and feelings in a controlled, safe and healthy environment, was incredibly instrumental.


It almost goes without saying that when an addiction is present, family members will find the blame game is alive and well.  We had elements of blaming ourselves as parents and role models, believing that the reason Katherine defied everything we believed in was an attempt to “get back” at us for our wrongdoings. 

At Family Week we opened up the floodgates, allowing ourselves to examine with minute detail (on both sides) where our thinking had been

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Posted by Linda Quirk  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family History, Family Therapy, Recovery, Treatment  /  Comments: more

A Light at the End of the Tunnel
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009

It’s difficult to imagine the agony will ever end.  From the insidious disease and raging teen hormones to the ancient tradition of the younger generation happily torturing their parents, living with a teenage substance abuser feels like a roller coaster ride without a seat harness.

So some good news. If you haven’t joined the witness protection program, rest assured that aging (no, not your aging) impacts the disease.

Something happens as teen addicts get older; they find a little wisdom. Don’t get carried away, not a lot of wisdom. Just enough to see that perhaps this lifestyle isn’t especially productive. As friends land in jail or on slabs in the morgue, a remarkable process of self-awareness develops.

Maybe this isn’t as much fun as it used to be. Duh.

They also want material things. A job they can be proud of, building their often low self-esteem. College, which requires occasional lucidity. Or a decent mate who doesn’t share their joy of getting high. And they want to grow up. Maybe that originally scared them into seeking sanctuary inside a bottle or a joint.

Encourage this maturation process whenever you can. Having spent years serving as their personal cop suspecting their every move (with good reason), that’s difficult, I know. But if they’re changing, you must, too. If you remain mired in how they once were without showing some flexibility on what they may become, both of you will be trapped in the ugly past.

By giving your kids increased responsibilities, you’re showing faith in their decision- making as young adults. If they succeed, they’re the ones who’ve triumphed, not you.

Now it’s still a disease, not a choice. But within the disease is the choice to get sober. Doesn’t mean it’ll be smooth. Relapses are part of the process. If they can prove to themselves that they can handle the temptations of a more relaxed curfew, the responsibility of a job, perhaps they can handle the responsibility of confronting their addiction and saying Yes, I am getting sober. And staying sober.

Posted by Gary Morgenstein  /  Filed under Dealing with an Addicted Child, Recovery & Relapse  /  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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