Monthly Archives: February 2014

Where can I find hope if my child is an addict or alcoholic?

This is an “encore” post from My3Sunz

I think about Hope differently and especially with the turn of a new year. It was in the New Year, and in January of years gone by when sudden and terrible events changed my course in recovery. My sons were arrested. This time was serious. This time things would be different. My hope went from “I hope they will…” to “I hope I can …” This was not an overnight phenomenon. Over time, working the steps with a Sponsor, giving service, and attending Al-Anon meetings regularly, something changed in me. Was it the fact my sons progressed in their disease and my humility was exposed? From an outsider, things appeared to be getting worse not better. Nonetheless, the focus of my conscience mind was no longer on them 100% of the time – Was it a result of my own growth in recovery from the family disease? More than likely it was a combination of all these things. One day I realized I was no longer consumed by them or other things I could recognize as “outside my control.” I began to get a better understanding of the disease. I gained compassion and empathy to friends and family afflicted. I could no longer lecture or give advice on other people’s matters. I had to acknowledge my limits and stick to my own experience, strength and hope. My hope today focuses on my own recovery, reaching out to others and giving service. Maybe my experience, like those who shared their experiences before me, will be a beacon of Hope to someone else – it’s not for me to figure out. Somewhere in the recovery community I felt hope and realized it’s a unique, individual awakening and choice to live life fully. There can be joy. There can be happiness. I’m hopeful because recovery is for anyone who wants it.

Recovery for parents of addicts and alcoholics: It’s an inside job

I’ve met parents from all walks of life in the trenches of a child’s substance use disorder.  Rich, poor, all ethnicities, rural, urban, well-educated or not…we all have one thing in common:  We are the parents of an addict or alcoholic. And at first, we cannot believe it.

“The drug test was wrong!”  “I’m just holding those rolling papers and scale for my friend so he won’t get in trouble (Huh?  So now who is in trouble?)  I heard those proclamations from my son and chose to look the other way.  Denial protected me from seeing what was actually going on in my family. If I believed that my son wasn’t involved with drugs, then he wasn’t involved with drugs.  That’s magical thinking at its best.

Denial gave me a buffer which gradually dissolved as I began to tiptoe across the minefield of addiction, which was entirely foreign to me.  Pain pills??  Do you mean Tylenol?  What is rehab and what happens there?  Where did this monstrous disease come from?  And what do those horrible relapse statistics mean?

I tackled many other questions as I passed through the next stages of grief—anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  But I turned those questions inward:  What does it mean for me to be powerless?  How have I enabled this disease, and how can I stop?  What can I do with my own pain and sorrow?  How can I live a life that is joyous and free of my child’s decisions?

In many ways, our children mirror us.  They are our greatest hopes and our worst fears. In truth, we— and not they—hold the power to reclaim or sabotage our serenity. We can get the demon of addiction off our backs only when we stake a claim to our own recovery, strength and our birthright to happiness and joy. And we can only hope that our children exercise their power to do the same.



Keep the faith – there is always hope for recovery from addiction

I had the opportunity to talk to some parents recently about how devastating it is to have a child struggle with alcohol and drug addiction. It seems everywhere we turn something bad has happened to a teen whose experimentation with drugs and alcohol turned into a deadly outcome. Yet, it does not diminish the hope that a child who has passed from recreational drug use to full blown addiction, will find recovery. It can’t be denied that not all of our kids find recovery. Even so we should always have hope for our own kids and for everyone’s kids who are active in this devastating disease of addiction. Without hope it makes life unbearable.

When I was in the hardest times of my loved ones addiction I would look for ways to be hopeful. One thing that I did was go to open AA (alcoholics Anonymous) meetings that were specifically for young people. Another Mom and I would go to a particular meeting and just sit and listen to all the young people talk about how bad it had been but then how good their life was now that they found recovery. It was so inspirational and always filled us up with hope. We would leave the meeting with a renewed sense that if all of these kids could go through such difficulties and find recovery, then our kids could also do the same. We would continue to have hope and we would continue to pray that they would find their way to a clean and sober life.

Ask the Expert: What are the odds of relapse?

QUESTION:  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 TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND:

Relapse is a complicated issue for both you and your daughter. For you, make your recovery first, and your daughter will benefit greatly. If you don’t, then you could relapse into old thoughts and behaviors which can lead to unhealthy and unproductive communication with your daughter.

Relapse statistics are high. And…….. I encourage my families to not get caught up in this because those statistics can only cause you to stress and lose focus on your program. It sounds like you are all doing wonderful work. Keep it up, and focus only on your individual recovery programs. I wish you all well and I know you can all stay healthy if you keep the focus there.


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



You have the right to remain silent – Learning to let our loved ones solve their own problems

I have a friend who has a saying, “I have the right to remain silent, I just don’t have the ability.” While this always gets a chuckle, it also definitely hits home. As a co-dependent I have a tendency to get into other people’s business even when I know I don’t need to step in and solve problems. This isn’t easy for me, I want to help and relieve the discomfort of those I care about. The problem is that I create unhealthy dynamics when I do this. I teach the person who is responsible for solving the problem that they are not capable. And I put undue burden on myself.

With a loved one in addiction, the problems are never ending. My tendency is to jump in like a paratrooper ready to descend into action. It feels good to help work through the issues and remedy the situations that arise. However, what I have found is that the problems just kept coming and by taking them on, I am teaching the wrong behaviors to my loved one. There is no incentive to safeguard against these problems from coming again and again since they know I would step into action each and every time they don’t work to avoid them. When I step back and remain silent when the next crisis occurs, my loved one has to step up and figure out how to solve them. But more importantly they begin to figure out how to avoid them in the first place. Sometimes no action is the best action of all.

“Every day brings new lessons and new possibilities. There is always a way to take the next step forward on the path you’ve chosen. Events may be terrible and inescapable at times, but you always have choice if not when, then how, you may endure and proceed onward.”

Melchor Lim

Homecoming for parents of addicts or alcoholics

The million-collar question:  What do you do when your child comes home from rehab, jail or prison?  That very thought can unleash a torrent of anxiety and fear, not to mention launch the real and practical challenge of where they are going to live.

Having our son move home after rehab was not an option for us. Our home was a virtual minefield of triggers for all of us. A bedroom window opening, the clink of a cabinet shutting, the whirl of the bathroom fan all shoved me back into the hellish days of using and abusing. I knew our home was full of triggers for him, too, and we weren’t about to tempt fate if we could avoid it.  So he graduated from rehab and moved directly to a “transitional living” home that provided the structure of recovery:  random drug checks, curfews, required 12-step meetings. After several months there to cement his foundation of recovery, he moved to a sober living house that provided less structure for roommates in recovery.  They needed to stay sober, or they were out on their butts.  That’s what we called a “natural consequence” when our children were little.

Similar resources exist in every community.  Start with your local social services office, police department, Salvation Army, Teen Challenge or drug and alcohol counselors.  Or use the SAHMSA data base to locate local resources who can guide you.

If your child HAS to come home, make it a different home than the one he or she left. Change things up, rearrange the furniture, paint the walls. Remove the things you know to be triggers, such as the alcohol in the liquor cabinet and pills in the medicine cabinet. ParentPathway Expert Ricki Townsend recommends that you don’t consume alcohol in front of your child for the first year.  Admittedly, that may disrupt family celebrations,  but why tempt the genie out of the bottle??

Most of all, change yourself.  Have a strong foundation for your own recovery.  Understand that unhealthy boundaries and enabling may have been a part of your past, and resolve not to let them erode your future. Define your “rules of engagement” early in the game.  Sit down and have a loving conversation with your child about how you will invite them to be present in your life in a healthy way. Put him or her back in the driver’s seat of their own lives. Treat your child as a strong, capable adult, and convey that you have confidence in his or her ability to succeed.  Know what you willing and unwilling to do, and make that clear to your loved one.  Gas money to find a job?  How about a bus pass instead.  Money for food?  Only until they find a job.  Hold tight to your own recovery, and give your loved ones a compelling reason to hold onto theirs.

Learning to stay in the moment and not let worry rob you of your joy

‘No news is good news’ – an age old saying that we often hear. In terms of a loved one with addiction it is a mixed feeling you get when you don’t hear from them as often as you think you should. These are rampant expectations that swirl through your head. Hmmm…I haven’t heard from my daughter in a couple days, what does that mean? Of course my mind plays lots of games with the answer to that question. Even though my daughter has been in recovery quite a while now, I realize my recovery from the trauma of having a loved one in such a treacherous situation for an extended period of time holds residual effects for me. In the heat of the addiction, when I didn’t hear from my daughter for days, it ALWAYS meant something bad. I would fret and pace and do all kinds of crazy things to try to figure out what was going on.

Now as we have reached a place of normalcy in our lives, we have a healthy flow of communication. So, when time goes by that is not in our regular cadence it startles me how quickly I let myself begin the wondering and second guessing. Should I casually call her work and see if she’s there and okay? What if something happened to her? How would I know? And although these thoughts come to me, I am very aware of how they don’t belong and I remember the ‘no news is good news’ saying. And then I reason that if something was wrong she would call me. It is ironic that when she does call or I finally get ahold of her it is always met with ‘I’ve been working long hours and it’s exhausting!’ or ‘I got together with friends and we had a great time.’. It is a constant reminder to me to enjoy the moments of my life and not let the unnecessary worry, that robs me of my real time joy, control me.

The price of addiction/alcoholism, the pricelessness of prevention

Chemical dependency takes a tremendous toll on the family, both emotionally and financially.  The emotional cost is impossible to quantify.  What is the price tag for a squandered life?  For a lost life?  For the stress we all feel while our loved ones are in the grips of active addiction?  For our sleepless nights and frantic days? The emotional price tag is sky high, even if we cannot assign a dollar value to it.

But we can take a stab at the hard costs of addiction and alcoholism:

  • Rehab:  up to $40,000 per month, with three months recommended. Not covered by insurance
  • DUI: conservatively estimated at $6600 for the first offense in California
  • Jail/prison costs:  varies by the crime you commit in search of/under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  One thing is certain: your past will follow you into your future, and you will continue to pay for your transgressions.
  • Job loss and unemployment: hard to calculate, impossible to stomach
  • Divorce: sky high legal fees, sky high acrimony and contention.  Impossible to quantify cost to your family
  • Squandered college funds: Poof!  Watch all your hard savings for your precious child go up in smoke as they drop out of school
  • Cost of Suboxone treatment for opioid abuse:  can be hundreds of dollars a month, typically not covered by insurance.
  • Weekly drug and alcohol counseling, recommended for two years: $10,400

What is the price of prevention?  What does it cost you to keep the liquor locked up?  To be a solid role model and drink responsibly in your children’s presence? To secure your prescription medicines with a locking cap like The Safer Lock, or to hide them all together?  To launch a pre-emptive strike against teen “experimentation” by talking candidly with kids about the dangers of drugs and alcohol?  To share the Emmy-award winning documentary, Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic– with your friends and family and develop a broad awareness about our children’s dangerous secret lives?

These measures, which require little time or money, are priceless in the fight to stop a child’s chemical dependency before it starts.

Truth and lies for parents of addicts and alcohlics

As I stumbled through my child’s battle with chemical dependency, I was forced to confront many things I believed to be true.  In fact, they were not.  Here’s what I thought, and what I learned.

Misconception:  Addiction is caused by a lack of willpower or by bad character.  The truth:  addiction/alcoholism is caused by a diseased brain that doesn’t work properly.  The addict’s brain responds differently to mood-altering substances, hence the expression, “One drink is too many.  A thousand isn’t enough.” Addiction/alcoholism has been considered a medical condition since the 1950s, and today brain scans can reveal the misfiings of the addicted brain. The disease of addiction is complex and involves both genes and the environment.  Chemical dependency may lead to repugnant behaviors, but it is not caused by them.

Misconception:  I made you, I can break you.  The truth: If I could have broken my child of his habit, I would have, but I am not that powerful.  I didn’t cause my child’s chemical dependency and I can’t cure it.  Only the addict or alcoholic can stop their self-destruction.  We are powerless over their chemical dependency.

Misconception Addiction is your problem, not mine:  The truth: Addiction is a family disease that impacts everyone who has a relationship with the chemically dependent person.  It disrupts the way a healthy family functions.  It throws the family dynamics out of whack as each member takes on a different role, such as the enabler, the fixer, the truth teller, or the enforcer.  It is everyone’s problem, and the entire family needs to “circle the wagons” in order to return to healthy functioning and support the addict’s recovery.

Misconception:  If you are sober for an extended period of time, then you are “cured” The truth:  there is no putting the genie back in the bottle.  Addiction is a lifelong disease, and it may include relapse. The tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, who was sober for 23 years, demonstrates the tenacious grip of mood-altering substances on the brain of the addict/alcoholic.

Misconception:  We are the only messed up family. The truth:  there are 23 million Americans in active long-term recovery.  At some point in the past, these people and their families were undoubtedly torn apart by this disease.  But recovery is possible.  Check out the brief trailer for The Anonymous People to see what long-term recovery can look like.