Monthly Archives: November 2016

As the Holiday Season Comes – A time to be grateful

Today I am grateful for a family that is together and whole. It has not always been like this. When my daughter was struggling with addiction the holidays were not a happy time. We got through the holidays but did not always enjoy them. Today I am thinking of those who are struggling, whether it is the addict or the ones that love them, and I am praying for comfort and serenity amidst the difficult times. It is difficult to know that things can get better, that there is hope for everyone no matter how desperate the situation seems.
I have a story of hope because this month my daughter is celebrating 3 years in recovery. I am so grateful for this and yet I know that it has been a difficult journey. It is becoming easier to forget the dark days, as I call them. They seem like a distant shore that is becoming more and more difficult to see. Sometimes I want to be rid of any memory as if it didn’t exist and other times I realize that it is important to remember in order to keep me from falling back into the unconscious co-dependent behaviors of my past. I chose to remember what brought me to this point in my life journey and relish all the joys and blessings that have come with it. Just like remembering what the holiday season is all about. Besides a time to be with family and friends, it is about reflecting on what I am grateful for. I am grateful for the slow, but steady, process of recovery from the co-existing diseases of addiction and co-dependency. A time to celebrate, remember and be grateful for today.

Defiant Children: Talking to Police When Your Child is Physically Abusive

This is an “encore” post  by Kimberly Abraham, LMSW and Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW. Thanks to Empowering Parents, an award-winning online magazine for this guest post.

Is your defiant child acting out? Are you worried when your child is physically abusive, destroying property or making violent threats? Has their behavior escalated to the point where you want to call the police? Getting the authorities involved can be a stressful for parents, but sometimes very necessary for the safety of their family. Here are a few tips on how to talk to the police:

Make contact ahead of time – If you’ve been having problems with your child, call your local police station and make an appointment with the chief or an officer familiar with your area. Try to meet with them when you are calm and able to think clearly about the situation. Sometimes situations happen when you need to call the police immediately (such as your child making a physical threat during an argument). Do whatever you have to in order to stay safe.

Explain what’s going on – The police are there to handle any violations of legal rights. If you feel that you or a family member’s legal rights have been violated by your child, explain why. Give them a list of threats or incidences (physical abuse, property destruction, drug possession, etc.) Make a plan with them on how to handle the situation.

Hold your child accountable – Make it clear that your child is responsible and you want them held accountable for violating the law. The police aren’t there to parent your child, but they can help with legal issues. Let them know that you care about helping your child learn consequences now so that they can become a law-abiding citizen in adulthood.

Be open to ideas – Let the police know that you are open to their ideas and any feedback. While the police can’t necessarily go and arrest your child if the behavior isn’t severe, they can tell you more about alternatives, such as juvenile delinquent programs. Tell them you want to know all the options available for holding your child accountable for their behavior.

File a written complaint – If you have an incident with your child moving forward, make sure the police know you want a written complaint and for them to communicate to your child that it is going on their record. If the child knows that their record will follow them into adulthood, it may be the wake-up call they need to change their behavior. Another good thing about a written complaint is that it creates a paper trail proving their abusive behavior, which a court can see.

Request a specific officer – If a specific officer becomes familiar with your situation, request that officer to respond when the need arises. Building a relationship will help ensure a more effective response to managing your child. Be proactive and let them know you’re willing to work as a team.

Remember, if your child’s negative behavior is escalating to the point where you need help, ask for it. You shouldn’t have to deal with this alone. By contacting the police, you can come up with a plan that will provide consequences for your child. Together, your efforts can make a difference and hopefully prevent more serious problems in the future.


Kimberly Abraham, LMSW, has worked with children and families for more than 25 years. She specializes in working with teens with behavioral disorders, and has also raised a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Marney Studaker-Cordner, LMSW, is the mother of four and has been a therapist for 15 years. She works with children and families and has in-depth training in the area of substance abuse. Kim and Marney are the co-creators of Life Over the Influence, a new program to help families struggling with substance abuse issues.


Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

water flowing“…one lesson every parent needs to teach a child is ‘If you don’t want to sink, you better figure out how to swim.’”

-Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle

Look inside for fulfillment when you grapple with a child’s addiction

mirror on the wallThe following quote is so true:

“People spend a lifetime searching for happiness; looking for peace. They chase idle dreams, addictions, religions, even other people, hoping to fill the emptiness that plagues them. The irony is the only place they ever needed to search was within.” -Ramona L. Anderson

How often do we look to forces outside ourselves for peace of mind and gratification? We try new jobs, new friends, and various activities. While we may get some satisfaction in the short run from these changes and new venues, it may not last. What I have found is that ‘where ever I go, there I am.’ It is what we hold inside ourselves that is the grounding force of our happiness and well-being.

The toughest journey can be when we discover that after looking for who’s at fault or to blame that we discover that we can only blame ourselves. I know that I am not without faults, but I also know that one of those faults has been to look to others for the causes of issues. It is certainly easy to do this when you have someone in your family that is doing destructive activities due to an addiction. For me I felt all of the problems where due to my daughter’s addiction. I became consumed with the victim mentality of what was being ‘done to me.’ When I started to realize that there were things I could change within myself that is when I was able to begin reclaiming my life. It was a very difficult journey and did not happen fast. But when I did decide to take a look within, I began to discover what I could do to change me and in that process it affected everyone around me in so many positive ways.

Mars versus Venus and a child’s addiction or alcoholism

Moms and Dads tend to deal with a child’s chemical dependency in different ways. Dads often want to fix the problem, dammit, to make the kid better, to solve all the problems he or she created along the way.  For fixers, all this hard work gives rise to some serious resentment and tests even the best anger management skills.  In contrast, Moms want to soothe the hurt, protect the baby, kiss the booboo away, even if that requires them to bear their pain. For us enablers, speed dialing grief counselors or Jack Kevorkian can be the order of the day.

This disconnect in parenting styles didn’t arise with addiction or alcoholism.  It probably lay dormant all along, but a child’s chemical dependency throws kerosene on the flames of parental disconnect and discontent.  Mars to Venus, we’ve got a problem, illuminated by the flame-out of our struggling children.

In order for the family to get healthy, it is essential to “circle” the wagons, which requires all parties to agree to take the same approach towards chemical dependency.  It requires a common understanding of the disease of addiction and a shared commitment to not enabling, not fixing….simply getting out of the way of our children as they try to right their own ships. It requires us to talk with our spouses/partners when we would rather retreat or cast blame or yell or cry. Being the parent of an addict is not for sissies, but it give us a chance to hone our resiliency, character, and commitment, which are silver linings in an otherwise dark cloud.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

12196101_722392971226415_7560179514246009591_n“This doesn’t mean I don’t care. Or don’t hurt. Or won’t cry. It just means I will fill the hole in my life where Joey should be with goodness, not badness. Kindness, not madness. I will honor my son with my words and my actions – not the addict. The destructive spread of the disease of addiction stops with me.”

Sandy Swenson, author of The Joey Song, a Mother’s Story of her Son’s Addiction

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you forgive to find peace?

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.   – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

What does it mean to be addicted to loving an addict?

Photo of a mother and son.A while back, my friend spent the night in the ER,  courtesy of her daughter’s addiction.  She wasn’t there for her daughter; she was there because of her daughter.  The addiction was making her sick.  She was so consumed with fear over her daughter’s whereabouts and safety that her heart felt like it was exploding in her chest.  Afraid that she was having a heart attack, her son rushed her to the emergency room. Ironically, they gave her Xanax –her daughter’s drug of choice—to calm her down.

Addiction, the family disease, kills addicts and those who love them.  Sometimes the addict is unscathed while his or her family pays the price.  Many addicts in recovery are horrified to learn how much their parents suffered while they skated merrily along, oblivious or numb to the collateral damage they caused along the way.

Loving our children “’til death do us part” is not healthy or sane.  But where is that “off” switch that lets us walk away from our children for our own sake—and for theirs?  And where do we find the strength to flip the switch? Sometimes our own health issues force us to cry “Uncle.”  Sometimes we run out of money or other resources.  And sometimes we have a moment of clarity and see that we can’t save them unless they want to save themselves; if not, we are all going down with the ship.

The simple act of removing ourselves from the equation often gives the addict an incentive to change.  When cardboard boxes and dumpster diving replace clean sheets and home cooking, that just might trigger the addict’s own moment of clarity.

My child’s addiction is not the sword that I want to die on.  Loving our children means resolving not to participate in their self-destruction. And loving our children means loving ourselves enough to retreat from the line of fire so that we can be present in a way that is healthy for all.

The price of freedom if your child is chemically-dependent

While I thought I could control the addict/alcoholic, the reality was the addict/alcoholic was controlling me.  Want to take a vacation?  Well, it would depend on the addict/alcoholic.  Could they be trusted out of my sight and supervision?  Could I trust them to stay at home?  Well, the answer would be no!  So I could not and would not take that vacation.  How about that re-model?  Well, it would depend.  It would depend on using that money for a “would like to have” or rehab/crisis pay off/ bail/ etc. etc. Best not plan on any major savings for that, because you never know what’s coming.  How about having guests over?  Well, it would be depend.  If the addict/alcoholic wasn’t around, maybe company could come over, but then how embarrassing if police bang at my door – best not expose ourselves to embarrassment!  How about your day?  How’s your day today?  Well, it would depend on how the addict/alcoholic was doing.  I literally would work 10 hours and on the drive home to my house, just 100 yards from my driveway, begin to wonder how my day was going to be….all depending.  The price for control any way you look at it was foregoing freedom, yet it seemed impossible to let go of the urge to control.

What does this “freedom” cost?  Nothings free!  The costs are relinquishing control!  It will cost me Acceptance: being willing to accept I’m powerless over people, places and things.  Trust: being willing to trust that a power greater than myself could restore me to sanity.  Working on my own recovery cost me time, commitment and a little inconvenience.  Freedom cost me boundaries:  standing up for myself and saying no with kindness and respect.

A small price to pay for a big reward: Freedom from the prison of obsession with the addict/alcoholic’s life.  Free of the all-consuming FEAR, ANGUISH, & WORRY.  Freedom to DE-TACH from the agony of involvement and trust that it will work out the way it’s supposed to work out and I don’t have to have the answers.  Free to make decisions about taking a vacation, saving up for something special, being a little selfish for my own sanity.

The perils of parenting a substance-abusing adult child

It has been said over and again, parents are the biggest influence over their children.  I must of thought that meant for life.  There were times I might have had a moment of influential pride – what I call the “my child is an honor student syndrome.”  I never went so far as to affix it to my car bumper! I was more apt to give my children credit where credit was due.  THEY worked hard at it…HE always had a love for basketball…HE was driven to pursue…I don’t know where they got it!”  But there are situations where rightful ownership is distorted by pride –  “Yep, that’s my boy!” With unsaid attitude: “I raised ‘em right!”

When behavior turns risky and substance abuse leads to addiction, the parental influence becomes nonexistent.  But, like me, most parents don’t stop trying to reclaim their influence.  And if crime related incidences by underage adults happen, we are quick to blame the parents casting quick judgment – “she deserves imprisonment” – “How can the parents allow that to happen?”

Like most of us struggling with an addict in the family, I stressed with martyrdom.  I spent every waking moment trying to prevent or stop the unthinkable consequences of the risky behavior.  I acted as if I had the ability to stop it.  I acted like I caused it.  I acted to regain that parental influence I was entitled to have!  I’ll admit there was a bit of guilt, what I call the  “what will the neighbor’s think syndrome.”

The flip side of giving credit where credit is due is taking responsibility for something I don’t own, good or bad.  It’s easier to allow them the glory of success than to allow them the dignity of living with a disease.  Who wouldn’t give their right arm to take away their pain?  What good did it do in trying?   It is this distorted thinking that causes further problems in helping my children recover from their drug addiction.   The perils of parenting are for life but it’s never too late to improve on it.