It is absolutely paralyzing to learn that your child has substance abuse issues. Where do you turn for help? How do you know what steps to take? What is addiction, anyway? There are endless questions and no consolidation source of answers or support. In addition, the stigma of having an addicted child causes many parents to retract and withdraw rather than seek help. In truth, many families struggle with substance abuse issues, and the support, wisdom and guidance they need are not easily found.Parent Pathway was created for parents, by parents, to provide a place to find peace of mind at a time when their world feels like it is falling apart.
There’s a saying that has been very helpful along my journey – ‘Say what you mean, mean what you say but don’t say it mean’. Many times the first part ‘say what you mean’ is the easiest. I can often express what I mean to say, even in the heat of the moment when I’m upset or stressed. The second part ‘mean what you say’ is where the challenge starts for me. ‘Mean what you say’ is where you hold your loved one accountable to the consequences of their actions. Those consequences are the very thing that helps the addict to seek recovery. Yet when your child is in a situation that you find to be dangerous or uncomfortable it is hard to stick to what you said you would not do. Every situation is different but to say one thing and do another is mixed messages and keeps the bad behavior reinforced in many instances.
Getting a call that your loved one has relapsed, been hurt or worse, this is the call we parents dread when we have said coming home is not an option. I have learned so much through these experiences about how the most loving thing you can do is stick to what you said. At one point I had told my daughter I would not allow her to come home if she relapsed and yet when she had no where to go, I caved and let her come home. Two days later she crashed her car while seriously intoxicated. I had been gently coached by a parent who had been through this when I told him that I let her come home. He said, “Your very actions to rescue your daughter from the consequence of her action may very well kill her one day”. While this seemed harsh at the time – it was 2 days before the accident. His words haunted me, he was so right. I did not hold her accountable due to my fears. I became very resolved from that moment on to ‘Say what I mean, mean what I say and don’t say it mean’. When I stuck to the boundaries and accountability she began to take responsibility for her action and the consequences helped her realize the gravity of her decisions. It has made all the difference in her recovery and mine.
This is a guest post from Jon Daily, Founder and Clinical Director of Recovery Happens Counseling Services in Fair Oaks, California. This article was also published in the August/September national run of Counselor Magazine as the feature article.
Myth: All adolescents & young adults (young people) “experiment” with drugs.Statistics show that the rate of drug use remains at a very high level for young people (1). Part of the myth of “experimentation” is that drug use is a naturally occurring “rite of passage” from adolescence in to adulthood. However, not every young person has tried or will try drugs. In addition, not all will pass through their drug use without experiencing negative consequences from their use. Drug use is risky and unhealthy behavior. In today’s society even “experimentation” can lead to car accidents, driving while under the influence, unplanned sexual activity, date rape, and sometimes death. Moreover, the word “experimentation” can be misleading. When we get calls from parents seeking counseling for their adolescent or young adult child, we often hear the words, “I think my son is experimenting with drugs.” When asked how long the parent has been aware of the drug use, the reply can be anywhere from weeks to years. The parent’s response implies that “experimentation” is a phase, when “experimentation” is not a phase at all. In fact, it is a “one-time event. ” (2) Once intoxication has been experienced, the experiment is over. The user has achieved the results of the experiment, “I like this feeling,” or ” I don’t like this feeling.” Subsequent intoxication indicates misuse, abuse or addiction.
When helping young people with substance use disorders, at the end of the day what we are assess and treating is a “pathological relationship to intoxication.” The name of the drug they are using is an illusion . They need to know they are not hooked on weed, they are hooked on intoxication and therefore must see all intoxicating substances as the same. Take away weed from the pot smoker and they drink and/or take pills. Take away Oxycontin for the opiate user and they use benzodiazepines and marijuana. This is because they were not hooked on the particular drug, they were hooked on “intoxication.” The focus of treatment for young people is to severe their pathological relationship to intoxication so as to open up their capacity to have regulating relationships with their counselor, support groups, rebuilt family relationships and healthy peer groups. Such social supports promote dopamine(3), and endogenous opiates (4) which the user has been chasing on the streets, but can be created in health relationships as they were intended to. Helping them and the family to understand this and supporting their growth in this way is the core of treatment after we have helped them to become drug-free.