Monthly Archives: July 2013

Ask the Expert: My son’s trouble with relapse and the law has me losing hope. How do I get my son back?

Question:  My son is 17 years old. He started smoking marijuana at 13. This just got worse and worse. In March of this year he was arrested. He was seen snorting suboxone up his nose and taking a hit of synthetic marijuana. He went to juvenile detention center for 6 days and then to inpatient rehab for 45 days. He came home in May and finished school, got his diploma. He was taking masonry in a vo-tech school, he graduated from there and got a job right out of school. He was going to outpatient sessions, and NA meetings. A few weeks ago he broke his arm and was out of work. This is when the suspicious behavior started again. I found marijuana and suboxone in his wallet last weekend and I turned him in to his probation officer. We are all at a loss of what to do for him. I have read everything about recovery and relapse and what to do, but this is frustrating. So now he is going to be on strict house arrest for up to 6 months, and he will no longer be allowed to drive to work or his meetings. He also has to attend a meeting every day. Please help me with some advice on what to do. He will be 18 in August, but that isn’t going to matter since probation has now placed him on house arrest. I just want my son back, but I don’t know how else to help him or how to trust him.

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL: “It sounds like your son just needs a more intensive outpatient program to help him with his ongoing recovery.  Does his probation officer work with any local treatment programs in the area that they can recommend or even perhaps help pay for?  The recovery process is oftentimes a bumpy road and a very frustrating and scary time for a parent. Find a local Al-Anon program in your area which will give you support as you try to love your son through this but at the same time allowing you to stay healthy yourself. Sometimes you have to try multiple meeting locations to find one that meets your needs.  Remember, he has been smoking marijuana for four years and it is going to take him awhile to figure out how to live his life without it.  People beat this every day – don’t lose hope!”


Check out other questions from our readers and ideas from our experts here.

Seeing our addicts and alcoholics through judgement-free eyes

This in an”encore” posting from My 3 Sunz

A couple of years ago I was driving my son to a local transit station.  What happened then is as crystal clear as if it were yesterday.  At the stop light, I quickly glanced his way to see if he was wearing his seat belt. I had not forgotten a previous time I was driving him.  Shortly released from prison, the police officer pulls up next to us and I realize his seat belt isn’t on. This panicked me to no end.   How could I not have noticed and insisted “car rules” but then again, why would I have to?

This time he has acquired tattoos that runs from his shoulder to his wrist on one arm. I’m having trouble accepting it, and I’m aware of it.  Soon I noticed things around me. At an intersection, the car just next to me pulled up to the stop light. Here was a young driver who appeared to be a drug dealer. There were several young people at the corner gas station; they too looked suspect to me – did I just see them nod to that drug dealer driver? And the car on my right, the driver also had a very noticeable tattoo… Somewhere there was loud music BOOM BOOM BOOMING… Everywhere around me were suspicious people, my son’s age, in cars, on sidewalks, parking lots and bus stations, all seemingly with no direction or purpose. It was like the ZOMBIES had all come out in the afternoon. This is an area I drive daily and I never noticed this before!

What just happened here? I was uneasy about his tattoo. Why? One word: Judgment. I was placing judgment on him AND would be lying if I said I wasn’t a little concerned about how people would judge me! So, as sneaky as my EGO can be, I involuntarily defaulted to my old defects of character – placing judgment on those around me – they looked suspicious! This tactic used to work good when I did not want to take a good look at myself. Let’s face it. If I put the focus on them, I don’t see where there is any “me” in the equation. This time, however, I CAUGHT ME!

I never know when I’m going to resort to old habits where character defects surface, but I am able to recognize what I’m doing and stop it soon after. Before Al-Anon I would not have considered my viewpoint the problem. I sometimes look forward to finding another thing I’m wrong at because it’s so humbling! What a gift!

Sunday Inspiration

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come.”

Anne Lamott


For more thoughts on hope, check out our Hope “Meeting in a Box”

Does the disease of addiction call for cave man medicine?

In the wake of Cory Monteith’s tragic death from a heroin and alcohol overdoes, people wonder, “Why do so many celebrities die of addiction?”  That’s not the question we should be asking.  With more Americans dying this year from prescription pill overdose than from car accidents, addiction is an equal opportunity disease, with victims from every walk of life.  So the real question we should be asking ourselves is,  Why don’[t we view and treat addiction as a chronic and life-threatening disease?” 

Such treatment would include maintenance medication (such as suboxone) and harm reduction services (such as Naloxone to reverse overdose), writes The Fix journalist Maia Szalavitz as she explores the failed treatments that underpinned his death.  The 12 steps and abstinence are not the only way,” she asserts.  

She continues, “In no other type of treatment are FDA-approved medications seen as appropriate to withhold—without even informing the patient of their existence. No cancer center in the US provides only chemo while refusing to inform patients about radiation treatment or putting it down as something “we don’t believe in here” because it is “cheating” rather than “real recovery.” But the equivalent is done in addiction treatment—even for celebrities—every day. If we don’t want to keep losing patients, we’ve got to actually treat addiction like a disease, by providing evidence-based treatment, not just repeating faith-based philosophies.”

We don’t remove cancerous tumors with a chain saw. We attempt to set, rather than amputate, broken limbs.  So why is addiction treated with Cave Man medicine?  Addiction is a tough disease, and we need to use the full arsenal of tools available to us.

Wait! Wait! It’ll be great – Effective strategies for teaching our children to tolerate frustration and delayed gratification

Peggy Harper Lee is a guest blogger and the author of ‘Spoiled – Fresh Ideas for Parenting your Entitled Child – at Any Age’

It often seems as if half our lives are spent in lines or waiting for someone. The term “road rage” was coined in the late 1980s, as traffic congestion increased and frustrated drivers resorted to extreme acts of aggression in response. Traffic congestion is simply waiting in line while behind the wheel. If you have been chased down, swerved at, or given “the finger,” you have experienced the road rage phenomenon. Why are people behaving so badly and so unable to tolerate this everyday frustration? Entitled children are not the only group of people who lack this skill, but the ability to wait, delay gratification and tolerate frustration is a lesson they in particular have not been taught and need to learn to be successful.

You child needs to allow for other people to make mistakes, and to understand that his needs do not rise in importance above everyone else’s and he will be fine if he has to wait for what he wants. To review, the following strategies are useful in teaching your child to tolerate frustration and delayed gratification:

1) Do not give him everything he wants
2) When you do decide to treat him, don’t always give it to him immediately
3) Require him to earn or work for what he wants
4) Do not rescue him from the consequences of his own behavior
5) Use chores as a teaching tool to help him develop a good work ethic
6) Involve him in volunteer work
7) Encourage him to solve his own problems
8) Give him plenty of opportunity to spend time with the family, extended family and friends who can serve as positive role models
9) Turn off the television and video games on a regular basis to encourage interaction

You may be surprised at what happens when you step back and make the changes listed above. His frustration level may increase initially, but as he learns to solve his own problems and adjust his effort to produce the outcome he desires, he will feel more confident and secure. You won’t feel the temptation to rescue him as often because he will create fewer messes. Instead of rescuing, what he really needs is your encouragement and affirmation that he is capable and able to work out his own problems.

Ask the Expert: What are the Odds of Relapse?

My 16 year old daughter has just completed a Juvenile Drug Court program and has been clean and sober for almost 6 months. We have completed an intense program of family groups, one-on-one therapy and weekly teen support group meetings. What are the odds of her relapsing? – Concerned Mom


Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL: While relapse is often times a part of recovery it is not ALWAYS a part of it. Research tells us that one year is the “optimal dose” of treatment so continue with her individual therapy and support groups. If, indeed, there is a relapse I think the best thing is to remain calm and remember it doesn’t mean she is going to go back to that lifestyle permanently. She needs to be held accountable for her poor decision but more importantly she will need to process what happened with her counselor in order to make sure she has all the tools she needs to stay sober.

– Christy Crandell, Administrative Director and Founder of Full Circle Treatment Center.

Photo of Ricki Townsend

EXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: While relapse rates are high, I encourage families to not get caught up in this. They are merely numbers that can cause stress and make you lose focus on your own recovery program.

Relapse is a complicated issue based on many variables, including the length of time spent in rehab and the changes that the family has or has not made to their family system.  The best thing you can do is make your own recovery a priority.  Your daughter will benefit greatly from constructive changes in the way your family deals with chemical dependency.  If you relapse into old thoughts and behaviors, your communication and behaviors with your daughter may become unhealthy.  

We recommend many books on our resources page that can help you both get better and stronger, and Al-Anon and Nar-Anon offer powerful support for a family member’s recovery.

It sounds like you are all doing wonderful work. Keep it up, and keep the focus on your individual recovery program.  Your daughter has hopefully made recovery one of her top priorities, also. I wish you all well and I know you can all stay healthy if you stay focused.


Ricki Townsend, Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1

Making Progress, Not Perfection in my Co-Dependent Behavior

It seems that as the time goes on I am making progress on with my recovery as a co-dependent. But, yet, I get frustrated that I can’t get it right all the time. It’s an interesting paradox to immerse yourself into learning about co-dependency, what it is, how it is negative to yourself and others, how to change these behaviors. Then you have ‘book smarts’ about it, just like any other topic or subject you decide to become proficient about. So, why can’t I turn this information from intellectual understanding to daily behavior? It occurred to me that if I thought about a sports analogy then maybe I could make a parallel that would help me be a little easier on myself.
For instance, if I bought a book on water skiing and read it and studied it and even bought videos on instruction and technique, should I expect to go out on the water and be proficient at water skiing the first, second, third and so on tries at it? Of course we would never expect this. So, why do I think I can read about a behavior and think that I can take this intellectual understanding and instantly turn it into practice in my day to day life? What I’ve found is that with every opportunity to practice what I’m learning, I become a little more proficient. I’ve even found when those opportunities do not come for a bit, that I also become a bit rusty. It is progress, not perfection that I strive for. As long as I see that I am making progress then I realize I am heading in the right direction on this journey.

Sunday Inspiration

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

- Lao Tzu

What Research Says about Teen Addiction

Photo of woman speaking with a counselor.It’s been healthy for me to take a step back and try to wrap my brain around the science and psychology of chemical dependency, rather than twist myself around the axle of my own interpersonal drama and trauma. Removing “me” and inserting experts into the equation of this disease has given me a much-needed distance from the problem while gaining an understanding of both addiction and recovery.

With that in mind, I am honored to give you a sneak preview of Recovery Coach Cathy Taughninbaugh’s fascinating interview with Dr. Ken Winters about his recent study with teens and their parents/caregivers. His work as Director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research (CASAR), demonstrates the effectiveness of brief interventions with adolescents to reduce their problem drug or alcohol use. Of great importance to parents in the trenches, he found that adding parent involvement in the intervention increased the positive results.

In the interview, Dr. Winters also explained the difference between cognitive behavioral therapy and motivational therapy.  I know that therapy was essential to my child’s recovery—and my own—and now I have a better understanding of how the therapy “worked.”

The Partnership at  will be using Dr. Winter’s research to develop an easy web-based program for parents that will help reduce or avoid the odds of their children abusing drugs or alcohol.  Sounds like magic,  but I am hopeful that this research-based approach helps stop our children’s substance use disorder before it starts.

Learning from Other Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Photo of diverse paper doll cutouts.This is an “encore” posting from My 3 Sunz.  The meeting she spoke of could have been  Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.  Either meeting may give you the support you need…keep looking until you find the right one for you.

I sat in a meeting and listened for the second time as a parent shared her experience, strength and hope. This person has been an anonymous angel to me. The first time I heard her story was 4 years ago. She gave me courage and strength back then and a whole lot of HOPE. Even though at the time, I cried and grieved about the experiences she had, I knew that I was not immune and I admired how she had not only coped, but found serenity and joy in life.

And for the second time as I listened again, I was filled with gratitude beyond measure. The gratitude for the program of recovery offered from Al-Anon members who keep showing up, year after year. Her story, like so many, includes great sadness, but also joy. It includes unfathomable outcomes of life and death. It could be my story, your story, and is the story of many others.

Her son died from a medical condition and at the time he was clean and sober. His in and out of prison, in and out of recovery, in and out of denial could be construed as unfair torment and pity. But to witness recovery from the disease of co-dependence; to observe what a loving mother could exhibit when in recovery, somehow transformed her story of loss into a story of great hope and happiness. It was my moment of clarity four years ago.

The reality of the seriousness of the disease, coupled with the understanding that I was going to have to make a decision that would require work, willingness and time. This all combined and propelled me into action. It got me out of the perimeter of the rooms and involved. It could be said, a life saving event.