Monthly Archives: September 2014

What does “Shatterproof” mean to parents of addicts and alcoholics?

1179314_28920035 angry boyWhen I stayed at a Starwood hotel several weeks ago, I noticed the “doorhanger” gave me a chance to “go green” and support recovery from chemical dependency in one fell swoop. Starwood Hotels, along with some other powerful businesses, are putting their weight behind, a bold, new national organization committed to protecting our children from addiction to alcohol or other drugs and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease. Born from a father’s grief over the loss of his son, Shatterproof is working to prevent children from becoming addicted to alcohol and other drugs and to eliminate the stigma associated with the disease of addiction. Why should this disease hide in the shadows when cancer, diabetes and ALS get the research dollars and the compassion?
Shatterproof is committed to reducing by half the number of Americans who die from this disease by:

  • uniting and empowering All Americans to call for equitable addiction research funding, policies, programs and support.
  • ending the stigma of addiction by educating the public so society will view those suffering from this disease with compassion and offer support
  • advocating for change, Including public policies that better address this profound public health crisis.

Watch the founder of Shatterproof, Gary Mendell, talk about his son, whose tragic loss gave birth to Shatterproof. And share this powerful documentary to support the grand plans to prevent a disease that we don’t prevent…to treat a disease that we don’t treat….to change the lives of 20 million Americans who struggle every day with the disease of addiction, and to the families who suffer at their sides.

A new kind of park – keeping our kids safe

1152328_16239381 playgroundWhen my kids were young one of the most enjoyable activities for them was going to the park. They would beg and plead for me to take them and then when it was time to leave they would beg and plead to stay ‘just one more ride on the swings…or slide…’  There really wasn’t anything better than spending the day at the park under the warm sun, listening to the kids laugh and play. Today I have a different view of parks. I think about what happens at parks when the sun sets and the families are tucked away in their homes. I know that when my daughter was active in her addiction parks were a familiar place. She has since told me that you can buy drugs at just about any park. The dealers are lurking around waiting for a buyer. Sometimes it is someone they know; many times it is someone who just knows that the park is the place to go.
There is a park in a not too distant community that is nick named ‘Pill Park’. It is the place that everyone knows they can go and buy illegal prescription drugs. I’ve heard of statistics that it takes a teenager 5 minutes to seek and buy drugs – hearing of Pill Park makes me believe this is most likely true.  Although I’ve always known parks can be a place for troubled kids to hang out, this sounds like a whole new level of access for substance abuse. As a parent we want our kids to be able to ride their bikes to the park, play and come home as innocent as they left.  I hang on to the hope that we as parents become savvy and aware to be able to protect our children and grandchildren from the harms. I am grateful that my daughter is now clean and sober and at the same time I am fearful of the environment that kids are exposed to in our own neighborhoods. Education and awareness at a young age is vital to preventing more teens from falling into addiction.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

1179314_28920035 angry boy“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”

- Andy Warhol

News flash: you can’t change your addicted or alcoholic child

Photo of Ricki TownsendRicki Townsend, Family Counselor and Board Certified Interventionist, is a Parent Pathway Expert.  Please feel free to ask Ricki or our other experts any questions you might have about chemical dependency or your role in relation to someone with chemical dependency issues.


When addiction comes into our lives, we are so unaware of what to do.

A crisis comes, we have a blowup, and then we kiss and things go good again, and then another blowup happens. Eventually, this is how we get used to living our lives, oblivious to the craziness it brings for all of us.

It’s the “I am so sorry”, the “I’ll do well”, then the craziness starts up again. Or the arrest, manipulation and lying. We want to believe this time will be different.

It is almost like we live our lives believing in an unconscious awareness that our lives depend on them. If they are happy, if they are doing the things that we know leads to a great life, then we can be happy.

After the blowup (or what I call the long sit down), they start to behave as we want. This “they” can be a husband, son, wife etc. It doesn’t’ matter, it all has a sameness to it.

When they start to “behave” then we feel we can breathe again. We go along with a false sense of security that they are now on the right track. In most cases it is a false belief. They will only last so long, because no one can pretend to be who they are not. The drug or alcohol behaviors literally start sneaking back in. Another crisis comes about because we start getting resentful that they are not doing what they promised they would do. What’s really happening is they are not able to take away our fear.

How do we handle this??

WE take back our life. We start our own recovery on a daily basis. The same thing we are asking of them, but this time we do it ourselves. We “do” things every day: Therapy, support groups, Al-Anon, even a couple of open AA meetings regularly. The latter shows us how recovery can happen. We put down strong boundaries. We finally ask them to leave or we leave the situation ourselves and take up residence somewhere else. All of these things we do respectfully.

We cannot control another human being into being what will make us happy. At a healthy level, addiction is like seeing someone drive away after a visit, lovingly waving goodbye at them…WE have no control over them making it home.

When things fall apart – beginning to deal with addiction in your family

Pathway to SerenityIt occurred to me one day that having a loved one with addiction sneaks up on you. I’ve reflected on the journey of having a child struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, and it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment, but there is a moment when things fall apart.  The life you so carefully crafted thus far becomes a distant shore that you long for. How does this happen? One day you are holding your precious baby, then sending them off to school, watching their soccer games, and then a darkness starts to creep in so deceptively stealth that you don’t even realize it. This is how I recall the addiction that ravaged my daughter along with our family. It is not so obvious that you see it coming towards you on the horizon like an unwanted storm. It is a silent enemy that steals your precious loved one.

I remember the sudden disruptions that started to occur. My daughter was an obedient student and child who followed the rules and didn’t like to get in trouble. When she began experimenting with drugs, her behaviors rapidly changed from predictable to unmanageable and sometimes frightening. By the time we realized the severity of the situation and began trying to determine what to do, it was like a train leaving the station. There are many things that I know now from this journey that I wish I had known at the beginning. First, what to watch for and also not think it was just a phase. A phase turned into a serious brain altering disease. It was a struggle to get my daughter to seek help; she was an unwilling participant in the beginning. By limiting her options, which were leave and live on the street or go get help at a drug rehabilitation center – I am so glad she always chose to get help. I had to find the strength to give the options and be convicted in knowing, and letting her know, that there were only those two options. I wonder if I had not given the options if she would still be struggling in her addiction instead flourishing in recovery. For me, when things fell apart, it was when I was propelled into action. It is a difficult juncture to be at, but you end up there and it is then when you realize you can’t remain or go back, but you must forge ahead and take action.

Keeping our Kids safe – Why isn’t addiction on the parents lists of worries?

Early Intervention HelpsI was reflecting the other day on something that is perplexing and troubling. It’s perplexing because of the information I now have – which is the dangers of substance abuse for the developing adolescence brain.  What troubles me is how many parents of pre-teens/teens do not understand the gravity of the situation. I know when my kids were young I had fears about them being taken by strangers, getting hurt in a multitude of ways, falling ill by disease, the list goes on. But never on that list was the fear that they might use substances while in their adolescence and become addicted. Yet that is exactly what happened to my daughter. What is now perplexing to me is why as parents we do not have a fear of this on the list along with all the other fears. It is so obvious now, but it took a tragic situation to happen in order for me to learn what I now know.
Anything bad happening to our children is extremely tragic. What I am proposing is that we talk about safeguarding our kids from our worst fears like child abduction. We keep a close eye on where they are going and who they are with when they are young. We try to keep them healthy with diet and exercise so we lower their risk of disease. We work hard to keep them safe from having an accident in our homes or outside our homes. Yet I don’t believe that we have grasped the true dangers of our young adults becoming addicted when they experiment with alcohol and drugs. I know when I silently worried about my children; drug and alcohol addiction never crossed my mind. I believe it is because we don’t understand how the adolescent brain develops and how vulnerable it is until it has fully developed at the age of 25.  All of this has been information that I am fully aware of now, but as a young parent it was not in my arsenal of understanding. I know I would have done things different with what I now know. I also know that I am passionate about driving the awareness to other parents so they can help reduce the risks of their children becoming addicted.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

“Laughter is poison to fear.”

Woman laughing with joy- George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

A new way to help addicted or alcoholic children

butterflies gaining strength and independenceThis is an encore post from My 3 Sunz

I’ve always supported recovery, but I thought that meant financing rehabs over and over – who can afford it? I used to wish that I could pay for the rehab-by-the-sea, thinking that would be the best-of-the-best for my son! Truth is, money can’t buy recovery and I’m grateful to have learned this before I continued to pour money down the drain not to mention, one more guilt feeling pushed aside. I have read a ton of books written by recovering addict/alcoholics and listened to others at open meetings. Each one led me to the same conclusion: recovery doesn’t cost money; it costs commitment, desire and willingness. Addiction costs money, and there is never enough.

So how do I help my son? By getting the tools to live life on life’s terms and not depend on him to make me happy. To learn how to accept him just the way he is and let him know he is loved. Recovery for him doesn’t have to cost me anything monetarily, it’s his for the taking yet I can still support him either way.

I discovered other ways to help – by indirectly supporting those who are ready for recovery. It may not be my son today, but it may be him tomorrow…There are nonprofits that help addicts looking for recovery and I can gift to them. When I struggle with birthdays and holidays as to what to gift my active addict alcoholic – I have to rethink how I do this. Today, I may write a check to a non-profit; I may support a local sober living environment or give my service to other entities that help educate the community. They are out there – the more I looked, the more I found them. Helping this way gives me a sense of gratitude – it’s my new way of helping my loved ones.

Wanting the Pain to Stop from the worry of addiction

1179314_28920035 angry boySometimes the pain of watching our loved one implode due to their addiction seems more than we can bear. I remember when my daughter was in the throes of her addiction how I was in so much pain that I just wanted to dig a hole and crawl in. I daydreamed about just getting in my car and driving, not in any particular direction but just putting distance between me and the situation that caused so much pain. I talk to many parents who have kids who have gone from recreational experimentation to destructive addiction and one common denominator is the heart wrenching pain that we experience. It’s like a slow motion train wreck, you see it happening and yet it seems there is nothing you do to stop it.
Even though we can’t seem to stop the oncoming train, we can focus on how we can take care of ourselves and begin to breathe again, and get our life back together. We can look at what we are grateful for and focus on other loved ones that many times don’t get the attention they deserve because the one with addiction is all consuming. We can look at how to better take care of ourselves whether it’s exercise or sleep or spending time with friends. The good news is that by taking care of ourselves it can sometimes have a positive effect on the one who is afflicted with addiction. It reminds me of a prayer that became a mantra for me, ‘God, Change nothing in my life, change me’. When we change ourselves, the world around benefits.

Changing dreams for our addicted and alcoholic children

swing setI didn’t really know what to expect when our son invited us to join him a support group to celebrate a milestone of his early recovery. I had been to open meetings before, but never at his side. My first impression of this particular meeting was—Wow, there are so many people here. My second impression was—And so many of them have lots of recovery….years and even decades.

But it took my breath away when I heard my son announce, “I am an alcoholic and an addict.” That short sentence made me confront the fact that my dreams for him would take a different shape. My visions of him on the high school debate team, high-fiving teammates, volunteering in the community had been derailed. My dreams — fantasies — for his future were unlikely to materialize.  And AA was certainly not the club I wanted him to join.

And when I let go of my dreams for my child, it made room for him to carve out his own path, independent of what I hoped for. And that divestiture helped me slash some of the ties of co-dependency that had tied us together in an unhealthy way. His life/his dreams to chase.

And at the same time, I was immensely proud that he claimed membership in this group that I know to be committed and brave and march straight ahead while the siren song of addiction calls out to them. This is a fellowship of people who dig deep to understand their powerlessness and to seek the help they need. There is tremendous empathy and mutual support within the walls of such meetings. And in those rooms, my son has created new dreams for his life, dreams that I am honored to witness.

My son’s proclamation also compelled me to admit, “I am the mother of an alcoholic and an addict.” I never imagined that I would claim membership in this club. But there is strength and honesty in this proclamation that helps me get better, too. And there is a fellowship of committed parents in that club- committed to their own health, and to figuring out how to support their children in recovery. There is strength, and wisdom, in their numbers.