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.

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.

Tis the season to prevention addiction and alcoholism

A child’s chemical dependency takes a tremendous toll on every front.  Shattered families, lives lost, a bottomless money pit.  What would you give to have avoided that minefield?  Now, we are giving you a chance to help others skirt the disaster.

ParentPathway supports the work of, a non-profit committed to preventing teen drinking and drugging before it starts. PathwaytoPrevention was started by a small band of moms who asked themselves, “Why didn’t we know about addiction?  Where was the education about this preventable disease?” These devoted moms then raised the funds for and commissioned the production of Collision Course - Teen Addiction Epidemic, which won an Emmy last summer and has shown on PBS stations nationwide.

If your child –of any age—struggles with chemical dependency, I will bet he or she planted the seeds of their disease at a young age, perhaps with that first experimental drink at 12 or 13.  You probably wouldn’t have treated that first experiment as a benign rite of passage if you had known that early “experimentation” programs the developing young brain for a lifetime of challenge with drugs and alcohol. You probably would have been more vigilant about securing the alcohol and prescriptions in your house.  You probably would have scrutinized your child’s behavior with a more skeptical eye, knowing the pressures and perils of today’s teen culture.

I know I would have done things differently if I knew then what I know now.  Being informed arms parents with the knowledge that they need to lock up the pills and alcohol, intervene early, and not  view “experimentation” causally.

PathwaytoPrevention is ramping up their outreach effort and needs your help to share this critical information that arms parents and protects our families. Would you consider making a tax-deductive donation to help PathwaytoPrevention with this important work? IIf you donate online, please specify P2P in the “Event” box).)

Wouldn’t it feel good to stand on the side of the solution, rather than the sidelines of the problem?  Thanks for playing prevention forward with a donation of any size.

Ask the Expert: Is our daughter ready to leave transitional living?

Our 28 year old daughter who is a meth addict (2 yrs abuse) was arrested and basically forced into a 90 day drug treatment program or else go to jail. She completed a 90 day in house rehab, moved into transitional living and has since remained clean and sober. She is now 5.5 months clean and although she has not been looking for a job she has been working her program. We pay for transitional living and give her money for gas, etc. and will continue to do so as long as she remains sober with the idea that she will eventually regain employment.

Yesterday, she told us that her roommate is leaving transitional living at the end of the month, moving into a home owned by her grandmother and has asked our daughter to be her roommate. Our daughter wants to move and states that she can work her program anywhere, remain sober anywhere or relapse anywhere. This move would allow her to have her dog back and take her things out of storage. My first reaction was NO! My husband states we need to think it over and discuss it further. What do you think?


First off, congrats on your daughter getting professional treatment & sticking to your guns on supporting her as long as she is clean. It is very difficult for people in a sober living home to get and maintain a good job while they comply with the stringent rules enforced in order to live there.

Your daughter is correct: she can get drugs anywhere & any time if she wants. Life outside the boundaries that have helped keep her clean are scary to us parents for obvious reasons. We have seen our children at their worst & now that they are getting better we are hesitant to change anything.

When my son moved out of sober living we ask him to write us a commitment letter as to what he was willing to do to help us be comfortable with his new freedom. We specifically noted all of the restrictions he was currently under at sober living including random drug testing. To our surprise his list was more strict on himself than we would have. He has a job, exercises almost every day, looks great & is growing as a person. We do drug test him randomly & I am always pleased at the results. As long as you are paying the bills you have control but some day you will need to let go and see if your child can become a productive working member of this society. I wish you the best of everything. Hopefully your daughter has decided that she doesn’t want to return to the Hell she once lived and she has learned to love and respect herself. Providing for herself financially will go a long way with the self-respect aspect. -Sincerely, Bradley DeHaven


Well said, Brad. The only thing I would add is to talk to the staff at the transitional living home or her sponsor to get their opinion on the move and her roommate. -Christy


Good call, Christy! The two young ladies could be great for each other in their quest to remain clean but the people who have seen them together the most are the sober living home staff & sponsors.


Find more questions and expert answers here.

Early Intervention Helps

I’m so proud that today’s parents, when concerned about their child’s substance abuse, have courage to take action and start early intervention.  I don’t know if I could have done this myself given the strong sense of denial I was in.  But then again, the drug epidemic we have today was not publicized when my kids were in their teens.  Had there been a documentary like Pathway to Prevention’s  Collision Course, Teen Addiction Epidemic, maybe I would have been paying attention more.

I recently heard some heartfelt testimonials at a fundraiser event for an adolescent treatment center.  To witness recovery through individual achievements as was presented at the event was truly miraculous.  How wonderful this community has options for parents who seek help for their children and family.  And the bright future for these young people brought tears to my eyes.

Recovery takes dedicated team work and money to support its professionals, operating and infrastructure costs to that end.  Generous donations, sponsors and private funding as well as volunteers in service by individuals continue to be the backbone of many non-profits.  Now that we have more places that offer treatment, how much is this going to cost? Parents are often shocked at the costs associated with recovery treatment.  As noted by Dad on Fire, in his blog post “Insurance Woes for Addiction treatment”, it seems “there isn’t a shortage of treatment centers but a shortage of dollars to provide for the care.”

One thing is certain: left untreated, addiction costs are far more costly and damaging than any prevention measure.  Every little bit we can do on education, prevention and treatment will make a difference, because early intervention really does help.

Dads and Grads, Final Act – For this parent, the month of June is a memory and new perspective


Part 3: The last act of a high school graduation.  With a better sense of reality learned the hard way, I had an unconscious surrender.  I realized that I could not control or predict the future especially in light of the problems drugs and alcohol were creating in the family dynamics.  This final act looked and felt different. Graduation would be significant if it meant anything to him, not me. What I saw was his desire to graduate, not my own.  He was the one that studied and attended class seriously.  He took the initiative to go on the senior trip, not I.  His actions resulted in his graduating with his class and I did not have anything to do with it.

The thought occurred to me: I can’t take credit for the success or failure of someone else…and then the awakening: I’m no longer in control as a parent, I’m just mom.  That letting go of my ideas of how the story ends for my children would be a solution to my problems.  A few years later with the help of Al-Anon, I learned that there are tools to help me be the supportive mother, free of constant worry and fear.  I can strive for unconditional love and this only happens when I chose to change my old thinking and behavior.    This has not been an easy change to embrace.  I still catch myself having to detach my will for things to go my way.

June is a memory with a new perspective. Had I known the real dangers of drug and alcohol abuse long before graduation, when my kids were little and innocent, who knows how things might have been different.  If nothing else, my experience may tip others to get informed and involved, while you still have control as a parent.  Fortunately, concerned parents made a documentary that tells it like it is today, Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic (to view  click here.)  To learn more about the project and the mission of Pathway to Prevention – go to

Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic wins an Emmy!

On Saturday, June 9, 2012 the Northern California Emmy Awards ceremony was held in San Francisco, California. The documentary Collision Course- Teen Addiction Epidemic was nominated and received an Emmy in the category of ‘Public/Current/Community Affairs-Program/Special. It was a great honor for the film and all involved in its creation. In addition, the film has been selected to be distributed nation-wide to all PBS stations. This recognition is fantastic because it gives this powerful film a boost which will help it reach many more teens and their parents. The sole purpose of this documentary is to help educate teens, parents, and whole communities of the risks to young people about using substances. These recent accolades will help to reach more families.

To view Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic click here. To learn more about the project and the mission of Pathway to Prevention – go to

Fighting phantoms in the dark

My friend’s brother is an alcoholic but he doesn’t’ want to “prove it” by going to an AA meeting.  That tacit admission would be too hard for him to bear even thought he admits that he has lost his job and his home and his driver’s license because of repeated DUIs and jail stints.  I am not judging him.  I cannot say that I would do better or differently under the circumstances.  I just don’t see how you can get better if you don’t admit you are ill. That would be like fighting cancer without chemo or fixing a broken bone without a splint.

When I heard my son announce in an AA meeting, “I am an alcoholic and an addict,” it took my breath away.  At first, it saddened me immensely:  I wanted him to be on the debate team, to crew a racing scull, to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.  AA was not the club I wanted him to join.

But at the same time, I was immensely proud that he claimed membership in this group that I know to be committed and brave and march on while the siren song of addiction calls out to them. This is a fellowship of people who dig deep to understand their powerlessness and to seek the help they need.  There is tremendous empathy and mutual support within the walls of an AA meeting.

My son’s proclamation also compelled me to admit, “I am the mother of an alcoholic and an addict.”  I never imagined that I would claim membership in this club.  But there is strength and honesty in this proclamation that helps me get better, too.