Monthly Archives: June 2017

Knowledge is Power – Educating Parents and Teens about addiction

pills in a cup rxWe all know that being armed with knowledge is very powerful. In the case of teenage addiction we are failing our kids and their parents by not arming them with critical information about the effects of drugs and alcohol on the developing teen. I’m guessing if you’re reading this that you are like me and that you have had an experience with your child, or know of someone, who has become dangerously involved in substance abuse. I know so much more now that I wish I had known when my kids were growing up. We are not educating teens or their parents in a way that helps them understand what they are up against. It is always easier to look back and realize this, I understand that. But I also think that knowing what I know now comes with a certain responsibility. I will talk to anyone who will listen and have become an activist in the area of teen drug and alcohol abuse.
I am compelled to write about this because I have recently experienced understanding how some very basic information like ‘prescription drugs are very addictive and dangerous to take’ is not understood by teens and their parents. What may seem obvious to some of us, who have walked this journey with our loved ones, is not at all obvious to others. More information about the effects of substance abuse needs to go out to our communities at the early teenage years and every year thereafter. Awareness does drive prevention, studies and actions in other communities have unequivocal proof. Pathway to Prevention has created the documentary Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic which is aimed at educating parents and teens through stories of young people who have gone through addiction and parents who have traveled the journey with them. I am very hopeful that this documentary will become main stream to educate throughout every community near and far. The heart ache caused by teen addiction is devastating and it is 100% preventable, we just have to convince kids to never take that first drink, pill or smoke.

What really happens in rehab for addiction or alcoholism?

Photo of woman speaking to a counselor. This is a guest post from David Greenspan, a writer and media specialist for Lighthouse Recovery Institute . He’s been sober since 2008 and finds no greater joy than in helping still struggling alcoholics.

I’ve been to more than my fair share of rehabs. While, in the past, you’d have been hard pressed to get me to admit that, I say it today with ease. Why? Why do I take pride in the fact that I’m a man in long-term recovery? Simple – it gives me the opportunity to help others. Helping others takes the form of, more often than not, working with men who want to get sober. I share my experience, strength, and hope with in the hopes that, in the future, they’ll do the same for someone else.

Today, though, I’d like to share some of my experience with the parents of addicts and alcoholics out there. I know my parents were at their wit’s end for years. I managed to find every possible way to manipulate and hurt them.Thankfully, I’ve been able to make up for that behavior over the past seven years. Our relationship is wonderful today. I count my mother and father as two of my best friends. So, with helping parents in mind, I figured I’d give you all a breakdown of what a day in rehab looks like. Remember, though, there are many different types of rehab. I’ve only experienced the “Florida Model” ones. So, your child’s experience may be different. It’s a scary to think about sending your kid off to a treatment center. Hopefully this will make things just a little bit more manageable!

Morning Meditation

The BHTs would wake us up around 6:30 each morning. Immediately, before eating or brushing our teeth, the community would have a morning meditation. We were usually segmented by gender. Males would meet in one apartment and females in another. One patient would read from a twelve-step focused meditation book. Something like “Daily Reflections” or “As Bill Sees It.” After the reading, we’d go around and say our goal for the day. We’d then end with a prayer. This was a great way to affect a positive start to an otherwise challenging day!

The Clinical Day

We’d arrive at the clinical offices around 8am and immediately have our “caseload” group. This is a group led by your primary therapist. It’s made up of their entire caseload, usually between five and ten patients. After caseload, there’d be a smoke break. Speaking for myself, these smoke breaks were invaluable! They gave me a way to decompress after an hour or longer of intense therapy. We’d then have two more groups for the day. The topics and make up of each group varied. There were large groups where the entire community attended. There were small groups made up of only two or three patients at a time.Regardless of the size, these groups would cover recovery oriented topics like relapse prevention, gender-specific issues, co-occurring disorders, family therapy, life skills training, and the like. After these groups, we’d usually be taken to the gym or a park. Much like those smoke breaks, these outings were crucial. They let me feel “normal” again, if only for an hour at a time.

Twelve-Step Meetings at Night

At night, we’d attend in-house or off property twelve-step meetings. These ranged from Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous to groups like Overeaters Anonymous and Codependency Anonymous. I loved the twelve-step meetings. They gave me a view of what sobriety and recovery looked like after treatment. They gave me a view of what long-term, sustained sobriety looked like. You were usually required to get a sponsor and sober supports at these meetings. While it’s a bit strange to me that a rehab would require twelve-step participation, reaching out to other alcoholics and addicts was incredibly vital to my recovery. In fact, I credit my recovery more to the work I did on myself in a twelve-step fellowship than to rehab and therapy. Don’t get me wrong, the clinical groups were lifesaving and gave me great insight in why I drank and drugged in the first place. Still, treatment only lasts for so long. Afterwards, it’s the connections I made in the rooms of recovery that kept me sober.

After the meetings, we’d return back to “campus” and have some downtime. Around 11pm, we’d have to return to our apartments and call it a night. During this time, shooting the breeze with my roommates, I made some amazing friendships.

Bonus: Unbreakable Friendships

While these friendships aren’t part of any schedule in treatment, they’re important. The men and women I met while in rehab understood me in a way no one else ever had. There was always someone to talk to. If you couldn’t sleep, you could wake up your roommate and talk about the struggles of early-recovery. If a particular group was too intense, you could go outside and find a peer to talk to. It’s amazing what a friendly face and word or two of understanding can do for your mood. It’s funny, I went to my last treatment center over seven years ago. We had a small community, probably around thirty men and women. Of those thirty, I’m still in contact with around twenty of them. Not all of them are sober. Some are able to manage controlled drinking. Some are back in the depths of addiction. We stay in contact though. We help each other when no one else is available. We survived treatment together and that engenders a lifelong bond.  I went to the wedding of one of my treatment peers last year. It was a surreal experience. Years ago, I watched as he crumbled and cried in front of the rehab community. That day, I watched as he stood in front of his family, friends, and God and took his marriage vows.

It’s amazing what recovery does for a person!

 

 

 

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you change your outlook?

My obsession with (fill in the blanks) affects all my children

There was a time I used the siblings to debrief my anguish and worry about the other “one” – the child whose absence or drama was taking center stage and getting my full attention. Unaware of how damaging this would be to the remaining family members, I did this for a long time.   The realization that my actions might have contributed to a form of suffering on them was a hard nut to swallow.  I had to learn it the hard way; it seems to be a recurring theme for me. I first pondered the notion when listening to Alateens share their hurt, abandonment and other issues they kept to themselves while watching mom or dad get progressively worse in their futile attempts to straighten up the “affected” one’s life. I’d hear how some would become overly protective and sometimes take the role of caretaker, worried about the troubled sibling. Some would get resentful about all the attention given to the other.  The entanglement of the family disease is cunning, baffling and powerful. To the “normal” sibling, the desire for mom and dad to get happy again would become their focus.  So, in a sense, young co-dependents were forming as the family disease reached epidemic proportions.  I wondered which role my children fell into.

Becoming aware didn’t actually help me with how to do better…the Al-Anon Family Group and 12 step recovery program was my road map for change. I had to start over with training wheels, in a sense, beginning with me and my contributions to the family disease.   It began with accepting I had problems of my own to work on. The hope for me was that I could mend broken relations with all those who mattered in my life.

Today, with guarded mouth and awareness of the family disease, I try to keep the focus and be present with those who stand before me. I no longer ask prying questions about the “other” one whose lifestyle is concerning. I consciously choose to seize those opportunities with gratitude to be allowed the accompaniment of their presence. Most critically, I get to be PRESENT with no conditions and that is my GIFT to them.

The death of dreams for our children who are addicts and alcoholics

Recognizing addiction in loved one Dr. JantzDr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross wrote On Death and Dying in 1969, and it holds timeless wisdom for parents of addicts and alcoholics. The Kübler-Ross model of the five stages of grief chronicles the reactions we have when we lose the dreams we had for someone…ourselves, or our children, perhaps.

Those steps might look this way when we witness a loved one’s chemical dependency:

1) Denial: He’s not using drugs – he’s got learning disabilities or He wasn’t drinking – he’s just an inexperienced driver.

2) Anger: You’ve stupidly shot up all your college funds.

3) Bargaining: If you fix my child, I’ll never ask for anything again.

4) Depression: I’d rather be dead than go through this hell.

5) Acceptance: I’ve come to accept that I am powerless over my loved one’s drug or alcohol abuse, and that my life has become unmanageable.

The Acceptance step may sound familier because it’s the first step any any 12-step program. It’s the foundation of recovery for addicts and alcohlics, and for those who love them. Acceptance is a good place to end up in Dr. Ross’s model, and it’s a great place to start getting healthy in AA or Al-Anon.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you incorporate the ten to zen for the new year?

Which way is not in the way of my child’s struggle with addiction?

bigstock-Right-Decision-Wrong-Decision-11944676 (2)When my son was released from incarceration the 2nd time, I was better equipped to not come rescuing like the first time. The first time I arranged to meet him, buy him clothes, toiletries and a hotel room until he found a sober living situation.  I paid for his lodging and soon followed with food shopping extravaganzas.  Though I believed I was cautiously treading and not helping to the extreme, he was indirectly relying on my assistance and I was relying on his success.

I was reminded that each time I helped in matters he was capable of doing himself; he did not have to focus on the necessities of life.  Since those were being “handled” by me, he could focus on other things which may or may not result in favorable outcomes.  I carried a hidden expectation that he would find a job and become self sufficient.  It ultimately became clear addiction and all the consequences that go with it trumped us all.

It’s a fine line to walk as a mother.  Naturally, there are choices one takes, but, if my actions, no matter how innocent or caring, interferes with my son doing for himself, then it’s the wrong thing to do. And here’s a mind bender – I’m still fooling myself if I try to control someone by withholding help if I attach an expectation to it!  The “I won’t buy you food, so you will be forced to work!” control mentality.  And helping because it makes me feel better doesn’t fly with me anymore.  Such disrespect SHOUTS “I’m helping because you are not capable and it kills me to see it” – that is not the message I really want to convey!

Getting out of the way is that way!  It’s the way I can give with no hidden, read-the-fine-print mommy babble because it keeps a healthy boundary between us both. There are no strings attached.  He may go right or left and it’s not my business.  Such was my lesson.  I was once again reminded that I’m powerless over this disease.  I was once again reminded that if I could not or would not accept the powerlessness part, then I would always be in conflict with him and play a critical role in contributing to the cunning, baffling nature of the disease.  I had to get out of the cage and stop dancing with the gorilla.  My sons’ 2nd chance has thus far had drastic favorable results and he gets all the credit.  All I did was get out of the way with a strong belief he is capable of figuring it out, whatever “it” is. (And I pray for the stranger).

Changing perspectives to enjoy the blessings along the way

Woman With Butterfly Wings Flying On Fantasy Sea Sunset, RelaxatIn Scenes of  Clerical Life, George Eliot wrote, “The golden moments in the stream of life rush past us, and we see nothing but sand; the angels come to visit us and we only know them when they are gone.” Eliot must have been writing about me.  I’m guilty as charged of being so immersed in the past and wrapped up in future “What if’s?” that I overlook the present.  Take this admittedly embarrassing example:  last week, I found myself quite challenged by the final pages of a book.  The text seemed choppy, the story line absent…..and then I realized I had been reading the appendix of the book and didn’t even know it.  Where was I when the actual story ended and the appendix began?  Drifting off to sleep in the bathtub; but still, my personal alarm should have shrilled “Be here now!”

So what does this have to do with addiction?  I ruminate on past hurts and mistakes and concentrate too much on future worries (which clearly exist only in my mind).  All the while, the present slips away like sand in an hourglass.

One of my resolutions is to change my perspective, to shift the focus off my son’s addiction, to stop pigeon-holing him with the way I think.  Not to diminish addiction’s ever-present power, but instead to view the whole of my son in a fuller context as a joyous, bright, generous and kind young man who also happens to be in recovery.

When I shift my focus and see the whole of my child, the difficult past and unknown future loosens its grip , creating a clearer vista where I may get a glimpse of the angels at work in my life today.

Ask the Expert: What are the odds of relapse?

Difficulty saying yes or noMy 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 based on numerous factors. Both you and your daughter need to make recovery your first priority.  For you, that means getting the support you need to stay healthy and to have a healthy relationship with your daughter. Going to a Parents Al-Anon meeting, working with a counselor, or attending open AA meetings with your daughter would all be healthy and constructive.

Yes, relapse statistics are high. At the same time,  I encourage my families to not get caught up in the numbers because they can only cause you to stress and lose focus on your program. It sounds like you are doing all the right things.  Keep up the good work, and concentrate only on your individual recovery programs. I wish you all well and I know you can all stay healthy if you both keep the focus on recovery.

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

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Are you ready to hear the unbiased truth?