Sep042017

Should you drug test your kid?

bigstock-Yes-No-Maybe-Signpost-2866212 (2)To drug test, or not?  That is the question facing parents who are concerned that drugs or alcohol are part of their teen’s secret lives. And that is a reasonable concern: prescription pills are the drug of choice for 12 and 13-year olds, and 85% of teens graduate from high school having tried alcohol or drugs that were not prescribed for them.

Drug testing can put your mind at rest or confirm your worst fears.  It can also give your child a way to resist peer pressure.  No matter how much we parents value rugged individualism, it is the rare child who can say “No” when everyone else is saying “Yes.” Ostracism feels like a very real threat while addiction or overdose are inconceivable outcomes. Being a teen is all about fitting in, and a child who doesn’t go along with the crowd can be ostracized or bullied. ““I really want to party, but my mother is INSANE!  She drug tests me, and I don’t want to get busted” gives teens a socially acceptable “out” while letting them retain appear to be one of the herd.

Drug testing also tells your child that you are serious about your standards and expectations.  It puts teeth into your rules and shows that you mean what you say. Your kids may assert, “I can’t believe you don’t trust me!” and you may fear that your alleged lack of trust will jeopardize your relationship with your kids. You can explain to them that you know how hard it is to be a teen and that you are giving them the gift of being cool and safe at the same time.  Then end the conversation. A teen who continues to argue over this indignity is a teen crying out for drug testing.

I drug tested my child halfheartedly and erratically.  I didn’t want to find out the truth, and I didn’t know what I would do if the test came up positive.  My inability to drug test him revealed my own sense of powerlessness over the darkening storm clouds.  And it was so much easier to accept his claims of innocence then figure out how to solve our problem. And I was ashamed to buy drug test kits at my neighborhood pharmacy. And….and….and….

But now—now more excuses.  You can  purchase drug test here, inexpensively and confidentially.

Aug042017

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…Worry doesn’t help after all!

mirror on the wallIt seems that no matter how much time I spend on relieving myself from the chains of co-dependency, I still struggle with worry. Ok, I suppose that means I’m human, that’s good to know! And maybe, just maybe, the biggest gift of all of this self-discovery is the raw awareness of each and every thought and action that I do. Sometimes ‘denial’ does seem like a viable option, yet I know that my life is much better when I live with eyes wide open dealing with the dilemma of the day. Today’s dilemma is that I recognize that I am beginning to worry about future events, also known as ‘future tripping’. For such a fun sounding phrase, it sure does lead to angst.
When my daughter decided to move back to town it was a joyful situation for so many reasons. She was close to 2 years clean and sober, hard-working, and being a responsible young woman. I could go on and on about the positives. Yet in the back of my mind I struggled with all the what ‘ifs’ that could take place. I am a strong believer of ‘what you think about comes about’. So I consciously had to not let my mind wonder and obsess on all the future possibilities. I have developed techniques to ward off those obtrusive thoughts by engaging new thoughts like a song that I find inspirational or quote or prayer. I also discuss my worries and fears with my daughter. I also think about boundaries that need to be respected and discuss them with her so that we are on the same. I also try to remember that things change and I need to look forward. So many blessings and joys have transpired, and I choose to celebrate those along the journey.

Aug022017

The Power of Being Productive – Growing into a responsible adult while in recovery

Many times I think about what has been instrumental to my daughter’s recovery. When have I seen the most growth? There are many dynamics that contribute, that is a given. Early in her struggle to overcome her addiction it was a moment by moment, day by day battle to piece together sobriety. But now that she has many months she is not in the crisis mode – she is ‘doing life’ as they say. She is working and taking responsibility for herself. This did not come easily as there was a lot of wreckage that was created during her active using. My expectations during the early days of recovery were basic; stay clean, move forward. But as time went on, I knew that part of her recovery would entail getting a job and learning life skills and responsibilities as she was a young adult.
I have to say that getting a job propelled her forward in a positive direction. She had to get up and show up. She had to work hard and follow directions. I watched her go from an attitude of ‘it’s all about me and what others do for me’ to ‘I worked hard for that paycheck!’ She began to understand the value of money and how much it cost to live on her own. Things did not just appear when she needed them, she had to work for it. It was a real sign of growth when we were shopping one day and I was about to buy something at the grocery store and she said, ‘that’s way too expensive! You can get that somewhere else for a lot less.’ This was never a consideration when she didn’t have to buy things on her own. Now she was able to understand the cost and making trade-offs. I watched her self-esteem rise over time. It is one of the most fundamental jobs we have as parents, to help our children grow into responsible adults. When they take a detour into addiction, it becomes an even more difficult task, but there is hope for recovery.

Jul312017

Time to Claim Victory over addiction? I think Not!

It is such an interesting time when certain recovery milestones begin to occur. In the early days of my daughters recovery I would put on such a celebration at the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 90 day chip, then the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 30 day chip, the…you get the picture. I would put such fanfare on these early recovery milestones because I wanted all the hope that came with it.  You would have thought I was the one getting the chip! It’s easy to look back on this and while I think it’s great to celebrate the milestones of recovery, we also need to keep it in perspective. Nevertheless, my daughter is a few months away from 6 years clean and sober – and honestly, I’m not sure I would be any less proud if she’d just gotten her college diploma! It’s been a long journey and it did not come easily.
So is it time to claim victory over addiction? I hardly think so, but it is time to celebrate and sit back and relish the healing and recovery. She has become responsible, performing well in her job, going to college, paying her bills, making good choices. These are all wonderful things to celebrate. Yet I know how illusive addiction can be – it’s like cancer, it’s in remission, healing has taken place and a clean bill of health is declared. Yet, it can reoccur when unmanaged and turn life upside down in a moment. I do not dwell on this possibility, for today I will rejoice in my daughter’s recovery and the healing that has taken place in our family.

Jul282017

Parent isolation and teen substance abuse

1427313_66874007 red headed finch birdI am captivated by Anne Lamott’s book, Imperfect Birds. Certainly, Anne was channeling me as she wrote this novel about a daughter’s secretive addiction.

Her book, although fiction, is uncannily familiar as she describes the seeming innocence of her daughter and friends, who were blatantly using drugs right in front of oblivious parents like me. Instead of “lame,” I prefer to look back at myself as trusting, hopeful, and a firm believer in the innocence and purity of childhood.  Drug addiction did not fit into that idyllic picture.

Anne Lamott and I are now kindred spirits, bonded by the experience of addicted children, real or fictional.  I am buoyed by this sisterhood of understanding and compassion.  It’s the same sisterhood that blossomed at a parents’ Al-Anon meeting where I discovered that many of us were struggling through the dark and uncertain woods. After weeping  uncontrollably in a room filled with total strangers, I was brought into the fold. We shared the common threads of grief and despair and even hope, although I couldn’t see that at the time.  But I knew I was no longer alone, and that made all the difference.

I’m not far into the book, so I don’t know how the story ends.  Guess what?  We never know how the story ends until we get there.  Until then, we need to forge ahead through the uncertainty, reach out to others who are stumbling alongside us, and head towards the light of day—one step at a time.

Jul262017

Therapy dogs add a new dimension to recovery for patients and parents alike

codependent dogThere’s a new tool with a heartbeat for our beloved addicts and alcoholics in some treatment centers: therapy dogs. Recovery from chemical dependency is tough and lonely work, and people in inpatient recovery centers often miss the encouragement, companionship and support of their canine companions. Learn how the Betty Ford Center brings unconditional love home in the form of wet noses, kisses and wagging tails that signal better days ahead. “To have this big furry red creature love them unconditionally without judgment….is healing for the patients in a way we could not have foreseen,” reports one staff member at the Betty Ford Center.

The therapy dogs help people connect with emotions, give the residents something to touch and love, keep people from leaving the facility against medical advice, and encourage and cheer everyone in sight. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered for residents and their families. Watch this brief and heartwarming video to snag some of that sunshine for yourself.

 

 

Jul242017

Disabling Denial: Reclaiming Life from (and for) an Addicted Child

Perhaps you’ve suspected for some time that something is amiss, but learning the hard truth about a child’s addiction or alcoholism is an absolute sucker punch to the gut.  Maybe that’s why it is so hard to accept that truth.

There are many obstacles to grasping a child’s chemical dependency, with denial in the forefront.  Dictionary.com defines denial as “An assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc. is false.”  Quite fittingly, the example given is “Despite his denials, we knew he had taken the purse.”   Swap in any number of nouns for purse—pills, money, jewelry—and now you’ve got a story that sounds may sound familiar.

Acknowledging that something was really wrong with my child was too horrific, so I looked the other way, made excuses or simply refused to accept the possibility. Part of me couldn’t understand how my child could be addicted, especially since I had worked hard to be an involved parent, loved each other, had family dinners almost every night, and was very present in my son’s life.  (Maybe too present, come to think).

Once I “got it,” I still couldn’t believe it.  This was my faulty logic: “Drug addicts come from bad families.  We are a good family.  Therefore, my son can’t be an addict.” Toss that logic with a hefty dose of shame and stigma, and you’ve got the perfect storm of denial. But my utter lack of knowledge and information about chemical dependency kept me from understanding that no one is exempt from this common disease that impacts one out of three American  families.

Although I understand that my denial protected me from a horrific realization, I wish that I had been able to break through it much earlier in the game.  Then we would have faced the monster when it was weaker and less entwined in our lives.  If you need help understanding and overriding the coping mechanism that can perpetuate your pain, please check out our Denial Meeting in a Box for some powerful tools.

Jul212017

Clearing Out the Clutter and Co-Dependency

Last weekend I did a much overdue task which was cleaning out the clutter that had collected in a couple areas of my house. I realized how therapeutic this activity was for me. I initially created more mess as I pulled things off the shelf and went through the pains taking sorting process: Attic? Donation? Keep Handy? Throw away? As I sifted through books, hats, papers, just to name a few, I started feeling a sense of unburdening. While I do not like to have a messy house, I do have small messy areas! The area I was working on was in the garage where I have shelves and cabinets for various projects and activities stored. I have a tendency to do a big clean-up project and then slowly it gets cluttered as I zoom around in my busy life not paying attention to the little things that add up to bigger messes later on. When I was done and all was neat and tidy I realized how this relates to life in general.

When I am organized and on top of the many responsibilities that I have, I feel peaceful and stress free. And when I am on top of setting boundaries and taking care of myself then I can better care for those I love. In my co-dependency, I can let things get out of hand quite rapidly. Which in turn creates messes that I need to later clean up! These messes are usually around letting a bad habit creep in – like jumping in and paying a bill for my child when they are responsible. I may think, ‘oh, it’s just a small amount and she can really use the help….’ or ‘I’ll help by creating a resume since I’ve done so many…’ Yet, doing these small things can add up to a big message ‘you are not capable, I am’ and ‘why take responsibility when Mom will bail me out.’ I’ve worked hard to undo these types of bad habits and create healthy ones. Just like cleaning out the clutter around my house, I will continue to clean out the clutter of my co-dependency!

Jul192017

Ask the Expert: Acknowledging our powerlessness, we seek words of encouragement

Relapse and Rebound, RepurposeQUESTION: My son started drinking @ age 13. He is now 43 yrs old and has not found sobriety. He has been in & out of rehabs & hospitals for the past 30 yrs. He is dually diagnosed & fails to be compliant with his treatments. He is a chronic relapser. He has a history of harassing, threatening, intimidating, verbally abusing people & destroying other peoples personal or real estate properties.

It has been very difficult to watch his self-destruction. Over the years there is nothing that we haven’t tried to help him get better. We have had to accept our family’s powerlessness over this disease. We had to pursue our own recoveries in order to find some peace & serenity. We needed to let go of him to be happy again.

Many times we thought that he had hit his bottom, but the insidious disease keeps winning & taking him over, again & again.  As much as any parent doesn’t want a child to go to jail, I am hoping that he will be sentenced & kept there. I am hopeful that maybe this is his bottom and he might realize how alcohol has destroyed his life & driven people that love him away. I see this as the last resort for his healing, since nothing else has worked. If jailed for 6 months or more, will he be evaluated & offered rehabilitation? I try to keep up my hope, but if he doesn’t learn from this drastic lesson, what can we expect the next time? This is all very heartbreaking. All I can do is pray. Any words of encouragement, I would appreciate. Who is this stranger, my son?? I read this helpful website every day. I am grateful for it:) Thanks for being there!

prison for addicts Brad DeHavenEXPERT ANSWER: When you get on a plane, the instructions are to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your children. YOU need to survive and at some point if you assess that everything you are doing is too much and not enough at the same time, then you are enabling the continuance of the same behavior.

Your son’s bottom is different than yours. If everything else that you have tried has yielded this result, then perhaps prison will bring his bottom to him. All you can do is love him and pray because at some point he has to understand how destructive his behavior is to not only himself but those who love and care for him. Addiction travels many difficult paths and you are certainly living one.

Best to you and yours!

Bradley DeHaven

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT ANSWER: You hit this on the mark!! Your child is a stranger. This is a brain disease, and eventually our loved ones are no longer available to us. Their entire lives become addiction.

So many of us have loved ones missing to addiction. I am sorry that there is no magic wand; change must come from him.

You are doing well if you have made your boundaries strong and rigid. You will find kinship and wisdom at meetings like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. please go to a minimum of six meetings, and try different ones until you have found the right one. Celebrate Recovery support meetings are also available to you at most major churches.

I would also encourage working with an addiction therapist who can help you move forward with the pain you are carrying.

It sounds like your son has lost his belief in himself for the time. If you talk to him, let him know you love him and believe in him, but hate this disease and what it has done to him. It is possible to love your child while hating his addiction.

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

Jul172017

Raising the bottom for beloved addicts and alcoholics

When you hear the expression “hitting bottom,” think of an elevator that discharges people in a dark, scary basement. For those with substance use disorder, that basement can be death. Then think about how the addict/alcoholic has a choice to get off the elevator well before it hits the bottom or the basement.

  • They can get off before they lose their job.
  • They can get off before they lose their marriage.
  • They can get off before they lose their health.
  • They can get off before they lose their life.

So when we talk about “raising the bottom,” we are talking about how to support their exit from chemical dependency before they reach the bottom. How can you “raise the bottom” for your beloved addict or alcohlic? The “Open Letter from an Alcoholic” offers great guidance and you can read it here:

Open Letter from the Alcoholic

I am an alcoholic. I need your help.

Don’t lecture, blame or scold me. You wouldn’t be angry with me for having cancer or diabetes. Alcoholism is a disease, too.

Don’t pour out my liquor; it’s just a waste because I can always find ways of getting more.

Don’t let me provoke your anger. If you attack me verbally or physically, you will only confirm my bad opinion abut myself. I hate myself enough already.

Don’t let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. If you assume my responsibilities, you make my failure to assume them permanent. My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.

Don’t accept my promises. I’ll promise anything to get off the hook. But the nature of my illness prevents me from keeping my promises, even though I mean them at the time.

Don’t make empty threats. Once you have made a decision, stick to it.

Don’t believe everything I tell you; it may be a lie. Denial of reality is a symptom of my illness. Moreover, I’m likely to lose respect for those I can fool too easily.

Don’t let me take advantage of you or exploit you in any way. Love cannot exist for long without the dimension of justice.

Don’t cover up for me or try in any way to spare me the consequences of my drinking. Don’t lie for me, pay my bills, or meet my obligations. It may avert or reduce the very crisis that would prompt me to seek help. I can continue to deny that I have a drinking problem as long as you provide an automatic escape for the consequences of my drinking.

Above all, do learn all you can about alcoholism and your role in relation to me. Go to open AA meetings when you can. Attend Al-Anon meetings regularly, read the literature and keep in touch with Al-Anon members. They’re the people who can help you see the whole situation clearly.

I love you.

Your Alcoholic