Music To My Ears – Parents Taking Action by Drug Testing their teens

Photo of drug test kit.Many of my posts focus on the aftermath of addiction, chronicling the devastation that is inevitable due to severe drug and alcohol abuse. Today I am focusing on the hope for this generation of teenagers. While at my morning workout there was a conversation among the wonderful women that are a part of this invigorating way to start the day. The conversation was about ‘pre-testing’. ‘Hmmmm… ,’ I thought,’ I need to listen to this…’ The Mom’s in the group were talking about how they drug test their teens in order to keep them accountable and give them a reason to tell their friends they can’t try drugs and alcohol because ‘My parents drug test me and I’ll get grounded/in trouble’. This was music to my ears, a full symphony no less!

 One of the ways we can help our teens is to do this act of love. While I am an activist for prevention of teen drug and alcohol addiction and I often talk about the effectiveness of randomly drug testing your kids, it isn’t always clear what parent’s think of this. It was truly a joy to hear the positive conversation about parent’s drug testing and telling other parents why they do it and having such a constructive conversation amongst the group. The thought of drug testing my kids never even entered my mind when they were in high school. Thinking back now I realize if I had drug tested my kids it could have done several things. It would have forced me to see clearly what was going. It would have validated the seriousness of the drug abuse that was taking place. I would have no longer been able to hope it was nothing serious, I would have known it was very serious. All of this is hind sight, I realize, but worth sharing for others to gain insight. I applaud parents willing to drug test their teens – it is a very loving act that can possibly be the difference between a sober teen or a teen traveling down a road that can lead to eventual addiction.

Ask the Expert: Should I even consider letting my son back in my house?

1179314_28920035 angry boyYOUR QUESTION: Our son has been growing with his infatuation with drugs over the last 3 years. I fear it is now at an addiction level. My son wouldn’t follow my house rules. He would often argue with me and steal from his sisters as well as me. He would do drugs in the house. I attempted to send him to boarding school in hopes the change of situation might offer him a different path if he chose it. He didn’t. He now has been living with his Dad ONLY for the last 7 months. My son denies any drug issue, but it is there. His father doesn’t want to seek help for him. Doesn’t want to do a forced rehab. I can see both sides… if he isn’t ready for help– it won’t take. But his dad wants to make him stay at my house again. Dad thought I was too structured and controlling AND he has let him come and go as he pleased. My son didn’t do well at all in school. He has a network of drug friends. Should I even consider letting him back into my house? I am looking to protect my daughters from this situation– NEVER MIND I HAVE A CHILD WITH CANCER– so I have been busy trying to get her well…. and she doesn’t need the added stress of a brother verbally abusing her mother and on drugs.

Photo of Ricki TownsendANSWER FROM EXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: You didn’t mention your son’s age, and there are definitely different issues and legal obligations to consider if a child is a minor. My response assumes he is over 18.

Infatuation, discovering, experimenting: these are warning signs of dependence or addiction if they go past a month or two. As a colleague of mine explains, “If you are experimenting, you are going to know after the first couple of times if you like it or not. If it goes past this, then you are heading into addiction.” Addiction is not about a one-time event; it is about an ongoing love affair with intoxication. Three years into this, he is well beyond “experimenting.”

You mention “forced rehab,” and I’d like to point out that in most cases rehab IS forced because no one wants to go to treatment. They are forced by the courts, by families, by jobs. Once in treatment, a light bulb often goes on, and the addict/alcoholic realizes this is what they want, and they embrace the community of healing and the education of rehab. All of this happens because the brain is allowed to start the healing process. As the brain begins to heal, rehab often inspires people to change because if they  don’t, they will lose their jobs, their marriages, the friends, and their health, for starters. They aren’t forced; they have a choice at that point, and it becomes clear to them as their brains begin to heal.

As far as your daughter, she deserves your full attention because she is trying to get well and she needs your help. That being said, you may choose to require your son to drug test as a requirement of being in your life or your home. If he chooses to do drugs and tests dirty, then he is making a choice not to live with you.

You have the right to allow or not allow toxic people in your life. If your son is being abusive, then you can calmly let him know that he can’t come by until he changes his behavior. That is a good example of what I consider giving people a reason or incentive to change. You can find support for a healthy family by attending Al-Anon meetings. I also offer family counseling over the phone and have worked with many families across the nation. I wish you the best during this stressful time.

Ricki Townsend

Ask the Expert: Should we let our addicted daughter live with us?

bigstock-Yes-No-Maybe-Signpost-2866212 (2)YOUR QUESTION: My daughter has been in-n-out of rehab and sober living centers for the past 7 years. She has been a chronic relapser with an opiate addition. She also liked to mix zanax and alchohol. She recently got kicked out of her sober living center for drinking and has no where to go but home. She says she has no desire to going back to drug use, and will continue to work her program outside a sober living center. She would like us to pay for her apartment, but experience tells me that’s not the right thing. So.. she has been living at home (thus far uneventful) for the past 3 days. I guess the question I have is – should we let her live here and see if she can stay clean, kick her out, or get her an apartment ?

prison for addicts Brad DeHavenEXPERT BRADLEY DEHAVEN: Given the circumstances, it doesn’t appear you have a choice (which is not uncommon). Duplicate the rules of sober living at your home including random drug and alcohol testing, curfew, etc. Trust is earned and any addict in recovery will understand that. Living with you is a privilege. Also, any adult living in your home should contribute in every way possible. Where there is life there is hope! Hang in there and never give up!

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL: Right now, while it seems like you are helping her, you are really enabling her to continue her destructive lifestyle. If she is serious about working a program, then she will find another sober living center and abide by the rules as she is still obviously struggling with her addictions.

It is my opinion that she not live at your home NOR do you pay for an apartment for her. While I know this sounds harsh and it is hard to think of your daughter as being homeless, she has to take responsibility for her choices to continue drinking and using drugs.

Every county has an access number to get help to those in the community that are suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness. Give this number to her and tell her you will support her as long as she is actively involved in a program.

Finally, I would recommend you go to an Al-Anon meeting, specifically one for parents who have kids who are struggling with addiction. This will help you make good decisions both for yourself and your daughter as you travel on this difficult journey. Most of all, do not despair as many people find recovery every day!

Music To My Ears – Parents taking action by drug testing their teen

Many of my posts focus on the aftermath of addiction, chronicling the devastation that is inevitable due to severe drug and alcohol abuse. Today I am focusing on the hope for this generation of teenagers. While at my morning workout there was a conversation among the wonderful women in the group. The conversation was about ‘pre-testing’. ‘Hmmmm… ,’ I thought,’ I need to listen to this…’ The Mom’s in the group were talking about how they drug test their teens in order to keep them accountable and give them a reason to tell their friends they can’t try drugs and alcohol.  ‘My parents drug test me and I’ll get grounded or in trouble’. This was music to my ears, a full symphony no less!
One of the ways we can help our teens is to do this act of love. While I am an activist for prevention of teen drug and alcohol addiction and I often talk about the effectiveness of randomly drug testing your kids, it isn’t always clear what parents think of this. It was truly a joy to hear the positive conversation about parent’s drug testing and telling other parents why they do it and having such a constructive conversation amongst the group. The thought of drug testing my kids never even entered my mind when they were in high school. Even when the trouble started with my daughter I didn’t consider drug testing. Thinking back now I realize it could have done several things. It would have forced me to see clearly what was going on – I was in denial and that is a dangerous place to be. It would have validated the seriousness of the drug abuse that was taking place. I would have no longer been able to hope it was nothing serious, I would have known it was very serious. All of this is hind sight, I realize, but worth sharing for others to gain insight. I applaud parents willing to drug test their teens – it is a very loving act that can possibly be the difference between a sober teen or a teen traveling down a road that can lead to eventual addiction.

Trust Your Instincts to Help your Loved Ones

teenager contemplating futureIt has taken time and practice but I have learned to trust my instincts. I find that when I don’t trust my instincts, I can find myself regretful in the end. Sometimes it is very clear when you have an instinct that something is not right and then sometimes it’s those subtle, nagging thoughts. There are also times when you hear something that doesn’t add up and typically you should realize it right at that moment, but you cloud your thinking by wanting to give someone the ‘benefit of the doubt’ or feel you should trust them. I was reminded of this recently in a couple different ways which gave me cause to pause and think about it.
One signal on this topic was an article that I read that gave a series of things to do to help your kids stay away from drugs and alcohol. One of the suggestions was to drug test your teen. The argument was that as parents we want to trust our kids and that even when asked our teen may downplay or deny any drug or alcohol use. My belief is that if someone is contemplating drug testing their teen, they probably have an instinct telling them something is wrong that they need to address. When drug and alcohol use becomes a problem there were many signals and instincts that we have yet we don’t want it to be true. In retrospect, we find we should be facing all of these signals and instincts with every tool or action that we have. One small act of drug testing to confirm what you probably already know, and then can openly address, is better than having your child become hurt or killed due to drug and alcohol use. I know now to act on my instincts, even if it is uncomfortable, for those I love.

Ask the Expert: Can my son’s previous addiction cause blackouts, or is he still using?

Difficulty saying yes or noQuestion: My son is addicted to heroin. He says that he is having blackouts. He says he has quit heroin but I don’t know. He says that he is still having blackouts and he states the Emergency Room told him that his brain is bleeding due to the drugs. Ff course…every time he asks me to take him to the ER or somewhere else, he asks for money. My question is this….is what he is telling me about the blackouts true? Could this truly be happening…or is this just another way for him to get money out of me?

Photo of Ricki TownsendAnswer from Expert Ricki Townsend: I know without a doubt how hard it is to question you son like this. And I do not know if brain bleeding and blackouts can result from heroin addiction. What I do know is that it is critical for you to have a healthy relationship with him, for your sake and for his. So I would put some healthy boundaries around your willingness to support him. If there is a medical emergency that requires your participation in any way (such as taking him to the ER or paying his medical bills), then you are entitled to talk with the doctor to understand his condition. I can’t think of any good reason he should deny you access to an ER doctor who is treating him unless he is continuing to use.

That being said, when we do something for our loved ones that they are capable of doing themselves, we teach them to become dependent upon us. So I would consider telling him that he is responsible for his health and that you will no longer be his personal banker. At a minimum, you are giving him a very good reason to get or stay sober, and you are protecting yourself with healthy boundaries.

If you are willing to support him in any way (medical bills, housing, food, etc), then he needs to be willing to prove he is in recovery by consenting to drug testing. Recovery Happens has great test kits for a very reasonable price. And  if you are willing to pay for his medical treatment, then you should pay the hospital directly, rather than give him any money for anything.  Addicts or those in early recovery shouldn’t have their hands on your money–it is simply too tempting.  Trust is the first thing to go when a loved one becomes addicted, and they need to earn it back from us, bit by bit.  That applies especially to money management issues.

Addiction is called a “family disease” for a very good reason: it impacts all of us. For that reason, please get support for yourself. Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, or an Addiction Therapist, would be a great place to start. I wish you the best.

Learning to Trust Your Instincts

It has taken time and practice but I have learned to trust my instincts. I find that when I don’t trust my instincts it can lead to regret in the end. Sometimes it is very clear when you have an instinct that something is not right other times it’s those subtle, nagging thoughts. There are also times when you hear something that doesn’t add up and typically you should realize it right at that moment, but you sometimes think you should give someone the ‘benefit of the doubt’ or feel you should trust them. I was reminded of this recently in a couple different ways which gave me cause to pause and think about it.
One signal on this topic was an article that I read that gave a series of things to do to help your kids stay away from drugs and alcohol. One of the suggestions was to drug test your teen. The argument was that as parents we want to trust our kids and that even when asked our teen may downplay or deny any drug or alcohol use. My belief is that if someone is contemplating drug testing their teen, they probably have an instinct telling them something is wrong that they need to address. When my child’s drug and alcohol use became a problem there were many signals and instincts that I had, yet, I didn’t want it to be true. In retrospect, I should have been facing all of these signals and instincts with every tool or action that I could find. What the article pointed out is that one small act of drug testing to confirm what you probably already know, and then can openly address, is better than having your child become hurt or killed due to drug and alcohol use. I know now to act on my instincts, even if it is uncomfortable, for those I love.

Elementary Education for Parents of Addicts and Alcohlics

What pearls of wisdom can I share from my turbulent river of addiction?  These are some facts that caught my attention when our family was first thrown into that terrifying and alien landscape.

 

  • 85% percent of high school kids try drugs or alcohol in high school.
  • Addiction/alcoholism is an equal opportunity disease:  being a good kid from a good family does not protect anyone from the possibility of drug or alcohol dependence. Addiction is a disease of the brain.  It is not a disease of willpower or character.
  • Some drugs are so highly addictive that one “experiment” is all it takes to launch the neurology of addiction.
  • Your child can become addicted to and die from prescription drugs that are prescribed by a doctor and taken according to the prescription.
  • Because of the plasticity of the developing brain, the younger your teen is when they have their first drink or pill, the more likely it is that they will develop a life-long problem with substance abuse.
  • One in five high school kids are abusing prescription medications, and prescription meds are the drug of choice for 12 and 13-year olds.
  • More young adults will die from alcohol-related homicide, suicide or accident than all other drugs combined.
  • Marijuana isn’t “safe:” There are more teens in rehab for marijuana than for all other drugs combined.
  • “Environmental prevention” – keeping drugs and alcohol out of the reach of teens — can  reduce the chance of abuse. Get a drug safe, lock up the alcohol, and “model” responsible drinking.
  • Talking openly and repeatedly with your children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse reduces the chance that they will “experiment.”