Monthly Archives: December 2016

Your problem is not my problem – Keeping a healthy perspective

It happens so fast sometimes we don’t even realize its happening! How does someone else’s problem all of a sudden become my problem? Because I let it happen, plain and simple. Sure there are a list of reasons why this can happen and they all seem so logical, yet taking on someone else’ problem actually creates problems. When my daughter was in the midst of her addiction, it crept up on me slowly. First there were the grades that started slipping and so I began intervening and talking to her teachers to find out assignments and what needed to happen so she wouldn’t fail. This took the stress off of her and put it squarely on me! This not only caused stress for me but taught her not to own her issues.

Even though my daughter is in recovery, I still need to be careful not to take on her problems. She has had situations where she has had a bill to pay or ticket to take care of. In the past she would tell me and sometimes not even ask for my help and I would jump and start coming to the rescue. Sometimes these situations are difficult and costly, but I don’t take on the problem for her. We talk about what she needs to do to take care of her issue. In the end, she handles it and she learns. If I take on her problems, she would be taught that she is not capable and she would not have learned. This is the power of understanding how my co-dependent behavior does not help, it hurts – both of us. I am committed to continue to own my problems and let others own theirs.

SHIFT: Less of that, more of this: careful weighing and mindful thinking

Recovery from the family disease involves a shift in attitude and behavior. Years ago my counselor told me that my son would “get it” when “he got it” and I kept asking her “how will I know?” Her flip answer was always “from his changed behavior.” How is a desperate, frightened mother supposed to understand that? I had 5 years of gnarly teenage behavior; never knowing what young adulthood recovery-behavior was supposed to look like. All trust, including my own intuition, was out the window.

It took years of recovery from the family disease, hard work and many sleepless nights to begin to understand the concept “changed behavior”…my own.

I experienced a gradual shift from less of that to more of this.  Each day I’m tasked with weighing my options on how my day is going to be; I have choices and with practice the shift is less noticeable, but more serene.


  • Less talk, more listening,
  • Less judgment, more tolerance,
  • Less control, more trust,
  • Less tense, more relaxed,
  • Less egocentric, more spiritual

Here’s how we can eradicate the shame and stigma of addiction

Don Troutman is the founder of Clean & Sober Trhob-house-0011ansitional Living, and he is committed to helping eradicate the shame and stigma of addiction and alcoholism, which often keep people from seeking help. Here are Don’s eight fast facts about recovery from substance use disorder.

“I hope these facts help people leave their misconceptions behind as they approach chemical dependency as a preventable and treatable brain disease. There’s no room for shame and stigma in this evidence-based conversation:

1. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act clearly identifies addiction to alcohol or other drugs as a mental health issue and a substance use disorder (SUD).

2. Twenty-three million Americans are in long-term recovery from substance use disorder. This list includes a past United States President, professional athletes, Fortune 500 executives, actors, musicians, as well as our everyday neighbors.

3. Substance use disorder (the severest form of which is commonly referred to as “addiction”), is a chronic brain disorder from which people can and do recover.

4. In the past year, 8.4% of adults (or 20.2 million adults) in the United States had a substance use disorder. Percentages for the Sacramento region are likely quite similar.

5. What causes substance use disorder? Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, states that that 50 percent of a person’s vulnerability to drug addiction is genetic. And trauma (e.g., poverty, abuse, early death of a parent) changes the brain so that it becomes more vulnerable to more than 40 chronic diseases including cancer, diabetes, heart disease and substance use disorder

6. Despite an increase in the understanding of the science of substance use disorders, research shows that people with substance use disorders are viewed more negatively than others.
•    Negative attitudes have been found to adversely affect the quality of health care and treatment outcomes.
•    Stigma and shame may keep individuals and families from finding the help they need to get better.

7. Just as substance use disorder impacts individuals, families and communities, recovery improves individuals, families and communities.

8. Finding the right support network is vital to the recovery process. Sober housing, where people choose to live productive lives without alcohol or other drugs, can be an important part of sustained recovery.”

Don Troutman, Founder, CSTL, Fair Oaks, California

“She had so many hopes and dreams. Being an addict wasn’t one of them.”

The  Christmas post every year is dedicated to Tiffany Noel Chapman, a Christmas baby born in December, 1976.  She became addicted to the pain pills that were prescribed when she broke her neck in a high school car accident.  She died when she was 27, her liver destroyed by the pain pills that she had come to depend on.

Many people believe that people “choose” to become drug addicts or alcoholics when they party with drugs or alcohol, but addiction often develops under less voluntary circumstances.   Tiffany’s genetic predisposition for addiction was triggered by the pain meds that she needed to take for intractable pain. Her story, while not uncommon, is an eye-opener to those who had no clue that even doctor-prescribed and doctor-monitored medications can become addictive.

Tiffany’s parents took her home from various ERs after repeated overdoses.  Not once did they receive discharge instructions that shed any light on the brain disease they were fighting.  Not once did they receive counsel about rehab or information about resources.  They didn’t understand the phantom they were fighting in the dark, without tools or weapons.    And they aren’t alone in their not-knowingness:  teen addiction and alcoholism aren’t commonly discussed in today’s parenting books.  In fact, most physicians have little or no training about addiction or alcoholism, especially as a teen issue, and little information to share with struggling parents.

Tiffany’s mother Linda opens her heart when she shares their story in the Collision Course-Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary, reminding all of us to be aware and vigilant because anyone—even the most golden child—can be vulnerable to this deadly disease.

The opioid tsunami is just ramping up….

The CDC’s most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report paints a bleak picture of skyrocketing opioid overdose rates. The new 2015 data indicates that, in 2015, the five states with the highest rates of death due to drug overdose were West Virginia (41.5 per 100,000), New Hampshire (34.3 per 100,000), Kentucky (29.9 per 100,000), Ohio (29.9 per 100,000), and Rhode Island (28.2 per 100,000).

A picture speaks a thousand words, and the CDC’s map reveals that the opioid tsunami has barely nicked the western US, with the exception of Washington State.  Note to states west of the Mississippi – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

The report also suggests four ways to prevent overdose deaths and reduce the drivers of this epidemic:

1) Improve opioid prescribing to reduce exposure to opioids and prevent opioid use disorder by training providers and implementing the CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain.

2) Improve access to and use of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs).

3) Protect those suffering from opioid use disorder (OUD) by expanding OUD treatment capacity and enhancing linkage to treatment.

4) Implement harm reduction approaches including naloxone distribution and syringe services programs.

I would add: Raise your voice if your child struggles with opioid use disorder. Join the other advocates saying “Enough of this shame and stigma while our children suffer from a preventable and treatable disease.” Admittedly, it takes a lot of courage to speak up, but there are ways to advocate from the privacy of your home. For example, support the anti-stigma work of groups like Shatterproof. Loudly or quietly, claim your power as a parent to change the course of this disease that is killing our kids.

All I want for Christmas is an orange jumpsuit

I used to think that my child’s arrest would be the worst possible thing ever. Talented and energetic enabler that I am, I gave that topic a lot of thought and even imagined that I could keep my kid out of jail.  Note to self:  as Al-Anon so wisely teaches us, we cannot control another person’s addiction to alcohol or other drugs.

Today, with the holidays and winter’s cold blasts at my doorstep, I have a very different perspective on jail time for someone addicted to drugs or alcohol. Today, an orange jumpsuit and “three hots and a cot” might be the best gift imaginable for a chemically-dependent child (of any age) and family alike:

  • You’d know where your child is.
  • You’d know your phone wouldn’t be ringing with a desperate or dire phone call in the middle of the night.
  • You’d know you have a chance for a good night’s sleep.
  • You’d know he or she is sheltered and being fed.
  • You’d know he or she was not wandering the streets, a potential victim of assault or street drugs.
  • You know that your child is experiencing the consequences of his or her poor choices and dangerous decisions. And that can be an incentive to change.
  • You’d know (or you’d hope) the legal system would put in place some sanctions, like requiring your child to go to treatment.
  • You’d know that, at least temporarily, the balance of power has changed.  You’ve got some leverage on your side.
  • You know that you and your child have been given the gift of a brighter tomorrow.

Reclaiming your serenity with “re-language”

Mental Illness and AddictionI am so fortunate to have XM radio, and sometimes catch Oprah Winfrey’s Lifeclass. One day I listened to her with her guest, Iyanla Vanzant.  (To learn more about Lifeclass, click here)

Iyanla Vanzant, an inspirational and new thought spiritual teacher, is such a kick and is always giving out little one-liners that provoke me to think! She’d discuss how Deceptive Intelligence keeps us from spiritual growth and screamed to the viewer: “RE-LANGUAGE!” Make no mistake, re-language was an aggressive verb, a call to action! I applied it to my own experience of codependency with young adult children in addiction:

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: I had to kick my kids out of my home. This is so dramatic and feeds the guilt I held for experiencing a scenario I wished did not have to happen. I took on responsibility, as if I could have done something else to minimize the impact. RE-LANGUAGE: My kids chose not to live by my boundaries, so they left.

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: If I let go, they might fail, get arrested, go to jail. There is a dangerous side effect when I think I know outcomes, especially if I believe I can orchestrate the future – Guilt, Disappointment, Denial, Shame. RE-LANGUAGE: I can’t control the choices my kids make, but they have a right to make them, even if I don’t agree with it.

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: His girlfriend introduced him to drugs, I blame her. RE-LANGUAGE: She is a child of God, cleverly disguised as a drug addict (another gem from Iyanla).

DECEPTIVE INTELLIGENCE: When I figure out recovery, I’ll be able to show them how to do it! I believed this to the core. So my early help seeking behavior had an end game! I’d pick up a speaker CD from an AA or recovered Drug Addict, and I’d strategize how my sons could listen to it. If they just listened, then …. I was still thinking what I was doing in Al-Anon would help me to the solution for me my kids. I was still trying to control it. Oh, yeah, definately Deceptive Thinking! RE-LANGUAGE: My children will get recovery when they are ready, on their own, in HIS time, and I’m not in charge. I’m just a child of God,  cleverly disguised as a know it all!


Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

a mother's broken heart“People underestimate their capacity for change.  There is never a right time to do a difficult thing.”

- John Porter


The best holiday gift of all from parents of addicts and alcoholics

Reflections on Motherhood and a child with AddictionDecember marks the official kick-off of the non-profit fundraising season, and I’d like to ask ParentPathway readers to support a non-profit that is focused on PREVENTING substance use and abuse.  Your support won’t cost you a penny when you shop on Amazon (any time, from any device!) because of an affiliate marketing program that will give PathwayToPrevention a small commission on every sale that originates through a Pathway to Prevention link.

How does this work?  If you plan to make any purchases at Amazon, simply enter the Amazon site through one of Pathway to Prevention’s links, and then shop away for anything and everything you want. Consider entering Amazon through one of our recommended books, below. You don’t have to buy either book: just enter the world of Amazon through this portal, and shop away.

  • Saving Jake – When Addiction Hits Home by D’Anne Burwell.  This articulate chronicle of a young man’s chemical dependency could be written by so many of us:  a loving family, a talented child, the search for answers, the hope of recovery. The book is sprinkled with resources and evidence-based information about the epidemic of chemical dependency that is gripping our nation.
  • The Joey Song: A Mother’s Story of her Son’s Addiction by Sandy Swenson. One Amazon reader commented, “It took years for (author) Sandra to realize that she could not save her son. That loving him meant letting go. She concludes the book without knowing what lies ahead for her son. This is not a happy story, but it carries a powerful message. While our children might move into a place where we can no longer follow, we must not blame ourselves for our failure to save them. Our children, much as they might blame us, must assume responsibility for their choices. Their lives depend on it.”

Prevention work takes time, money, dedication and expertise.  Learn how Pathway to Prevention turns evidence-based information into free, downloadable, sharable resources for parents and educators, and please keep this worthwhile organization going strong with your Amazon purchases.