Monthly Archives: August 2015

Spreading understanding of teen substance abuse

teenage alchoholismThose of us who know teen substance abuse firsthand are unwitting invitees to a private party where we can share both heartbreak and healing amongst ourselves, cry together, support each other, and find hope amidst the ruins, hand in hand with our sisters or brothers.  I am so thankful for the privacy of the community where I have found support and solutions; at the same time, I yearn for the larger world to have an accurate understanding of the disease of addiction/ alcoholism.  Prevention and educational efforts will take place on a meaningful level only when our children’s substance abuse is acknowledged as a national problem.

Whitney Houston’s death may serve to open the curtains on addiction.  While some may disparage her as an addict who “didn’t have willpower and chose to die,” other influential voices that tell a different story are now being heard.   Dr. Drew continues to authoritatively speak the truth about the ravages of this chronic disease as it kills those in the public eye.  Jamie Lee Curtis wrote boldly about fame and the disease of addiction in the Huffington Post.

How can we parents support this critical awareness without jeopardizing our family’s privacy or “outing” our children to their detriment?  Some ideas to consider:  spread the word about the disease of addiction by “liking” the Jamie Lee Curtis post.  Share the Collision Course- Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary with your friends and family:  you can view the entire 27-minute documentary online and even order a copy of the documentary for your schools or community.  Please join this conversation and share with us the ways you are helping others understand addiction as a public health crisis.

The Destructive Power of FEAR

Momentarily FraughtFear had become the Higher Power in my life while my sons’ addiction progressed. Oxycontin was a force, a power of its own, over them; and I was taken hostage by fear. Shut down completely to a reactionary mode, I was in constant mind chatter. Fearful they would get hurt, fearing the phone calls, the police, and the incarceration. Fear became the source that ruled my life. Fearful of change at work, of making a mistake or wrong decision, my behavior turned to panic driven reactions! I would be irrational, angry or wishy-washy. If someone were to look into my life like reality TV, they would quickly assess: Kids have issues with drugs, what’s the matter with the mother?

My program of recovery through Al-Anon is a spiritual one that offers a solution for living in constant fear. I have tools that help me discern if my thoughts are about things I am powerless over. I seek the help from my Higher Power rather than battle it on my own. I am presented with options that are calm, rational, secure and serene. I am powerless over the fearful feelings, but I’m not helpless.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Finding SerenitySome of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.

- Hermann Hesse


The Power of Denial – How taking action can begin the process of taking charge

Denial is a very powerful thing. Often as outsiders to another families situation it seems so clear, ‘why don’t they see their kid is on drugs and do something?’, ‘why don’t they know that their kid is doing bad things in the neighborhood?’, ‘why don’t they….’ The list could go on and on. Denial keeps us from feeling and dealing with a pain that can be so severe it is debilitating. I know how this works because I went through it when my daughter struggled with serious substance abuse and addiction. Saying out loud what was actually happening meant it was real and if it was real then the consequences of what that truly meant were frightening.
Yet crossing from denial to openly seeing what is truly happening right in front of us begins the process of taking charge. While it is challenging, it is better than letting the house burn down while we sit on the porch and think it’s a bit hot, but it’ll cool down soon. It’s an analogy that may seem extreme but works well. Denial keeps you from taking action to correct the situation. Sometimes denial is a way to cope until we have the strength or resources to take action. I’ve seen people be in denial for long periods of time and I know that it is not my place to judge. No one can tell each of us how to handle something, only we can determine what’s best for ourselves and our families. What we need to realize is that when we are in denial of a teenager who has a serious issue with drugs or alcohol, we may delay getting them the help they need to keep them safe. It is important to look at things with eyes wide open. Get help from family, friends and professionals. I know when I began to take action and get out of denial I then truly began to get help for my daughter.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

beautiful  girlWe gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot. Eleanor Roosevelt


Choices in RelationshipsI find the distinction between enabling versus helping difficult – especially in the heat of addictive behavior. You are witnessing your self-destructive child, no matter how old, and there is nothing more frightening. I wanted to definitely stop enabling because I realized I was helping further addict/alcoholic destruction.  But how?  It got to the point where I was paralyzed – I could not do anything, fearing I was enabling. This, it turns out, was OK because I could begin to identify what I was willing to do in support of RECOVERY.  A baby step measurement, or boundary, of acceptable “helping.” Gradually I came to realize the difference and found key points that help me balance ever-changing situations because I often fall back to old ways.

  • Addicts lie – If their lips are moving, they are lying, so asking them why they are out of money or lost the job or in a crisis will satisfy our own behavior problem: Denial, which encourages enabling.
  • Co-Dependents don’t see the situation clearly and tend to use speech versus behavior as our road map. I can easily justify “giving” as “helping” because I believe what the addict tells me.
  • Is there an ulterior motive behind my wanting to help? Often I catch myself “helping” with an expectation in mind. I have control issues too.
  • Did they ask? I am often quick to jump in and offer something – without even being asked. I know this is usually enable-based behavior because I’m feeling uneasy.
  • Help, if unconditional, feels better than enabling. Sounds simple but it’s not. Helping support recovery doesn’t necessarily mean one gets RECOVERED.
  • I don’t have to answer a request, or do anything right away. BUY TIME!

Lastly, my greatest lesson of all: there are other co-dependents out there. Just because I stop enabling, many will pick up where I left off. That’s OK. I accept that I am powerless in other people’s matters.


Be there! The UNITE To End Addiction Rally in D.C.

Finding SerenityConsider this your personal invitation to attend the UNITE to Face Addiction Rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, October 4, 2015. There are now over 490 organizations alone going to the event, plus thousands of individuals.  This will be a game-changing event.  Be there!

Dear Friends,

As you know, we will be gathering on Sunday, October 4, 2015 on the National Mall to UNITE to Face Addiction. Over 450 diverse organizations from around the country will be joining us to launch a first-of-its-kind campaign to confront America’s denial about the most urgent health crisis facing our nation today – addiction to alcohol and other drugs. We have some exciting announcements about the event and wanted to share the news with you first!

We’re thrilled to announce that Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler with his Nashville-based band Loving Mary, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell, The Fray, and John Rzeznick of the Goo Goo Dolls will be joining us on October 4 in Washington, D.C. These performers share our passion for understanding the impact of addiction and the power of recovery, and we are so proud to have their support.

Also joining us to UNITE to Face Addiction will be health expert and television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, who has just released a PSA in support of our event. Additional performers, celebrity guests, and special speakers will be announced in the coming weeks, so be sure to check our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the latest announcements.

It’s time to end the silence around this crisis and empower the afflicted and affected to take a stand for those who can’t. We hope you will join us in D.C. on October 4, and help us share this exciting news on your own social media platforms!

Thank you for your continued support and feel free to contact us if you have any questions or suggestions as we UNITE to Face Addiction.

Greg Williams

UNITE to Face Addiction Director

A Co-Dependent’s Walk Down the Yellow Brick Road of Addiction or Alcoholism

Watching the Wizard of Oz through eyes of a recovering co-dependent is an awakening. I understood the Scarecrow’s reaction upon hearing Glinda tell Dorothy she had the power all along to get home. He was pretty miffed she allowed them to experience all those horrible events knowing she could have helped her get home sooner. Co-Dependents don’t like seeing their loved ones suffer discomfort, danger and sadness. It makes us uneasy, fretful and worried. In my experience, I did not want my addicted/alcoholic loved ones to have to go through negative consequences from their risky behavior. I also relate to the Cowardly Lion, fearful of all things. It was my fear that drove me to become obsessed with them and in my mind the outcomes were always dark: danger, hunger, homelessness, attacks, crime. I never considered their sense of adventure, making new friends, surviving, sadness, and purpose to name a few. Any positive outcomes, such as independence, growth and self realization, were not a possibility – to my way of thinking. My thinking had become distorted – what happened to my brain?

I’m learning how fear and ignorance drives my behavior. I’m also learning to have courage and believe that whatever happens to my loved ones, good and bad, both have purpose in life and I don’t have power over that. It helps to remember my co-dependent tendencies when I want to rescue. I’d rather be a respectful mother, not a rescue mom. It feels better to let go of my fear and grant them the dignity to grow and live their own life. To do so, I have to accept that it may not be what I would choose, but accepting nonetheless.

I’m betting that after Dorothy returned to Kansas she was a different person – her experiences shaped new beliefs and attitude towards life. Because of my program, I am a different person too; I would say “a better person”. My recovery program has enabled me to have a relationship with my sons that would not have been possible if I continued to act irrationally, force solutions, become unreasonable all the while living in denial. Courage, Wisdom and Faith, it was there all along. There is no place like home.

This explains everything – making sense of the disease of addiction

Mental Illness and AddictionResearching or reading articles of research on addiction educates me more about why our loved ones continue to do what appears to us a self-defeating, immoral and illegal activity. To think they are choosing or willfully lying is a judgment quickly taken, but the truth is much more complex and physiological.

With stats such as “only 10% of addicts seek help on their own” , that is, even recognize they have a problem, explains a lot. In one such article written for CNN, Dr. Seppala, chief medical officer of Hazelden, states “Our largest public health problem goes unrecognized by those with the disease.”  In my opinion, the same holds true for the family members. We don’t seek help readily; we don’t see that we may be part of the problem. Take, for example, a good co-depended parent model: self-authorized to sacrifice their own well-being, at all costs, with a fear based obsession not unlike the addict searching for the next fix. Using ineffective control measures, we have firsthand experience being among the 90%!

I easily equate the addict profile as it applies to me, a concerned parent fraught with hopeless attempts to assist. It explains the anguish, heartache and self-defeating measures those of us in this family disease do.  It explains everything.  Why we continue to ”mother” our 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and older-year olds…as if they are still in toddlers! We ineffectively combat a disease of lies; and the alternative is at first, unfathomable, incomprehensible and counterintuitive.

The other measures that may ultimately “help” result from our own decision to seek help or maybe we were coerced.  However we get there, we are given tools to overcome our own connectedness to the addict and in so doing, contribute to changing that dismal 10%percent that seek recovery. When you know better, you do better.


Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.butterfly

-Martin Luther King, Jr.