Why is it shameful to be the parent of a drug addict?

StressThis is an “encore” post from Eliza

Our children’s substance abuse creates such isolation for beloved addicts and parents alike. It feels like others cannot possibly relate to our struggles as parents of addicts unless they, too, have been hunkered down in the trenches of fear, anger and shame. But I have great hope that as we spread the word about addiction as a brain disease, then the shame of being the parent of a drug addict will begin to dissipate and we can come together openly and constructively to prevent addiction through awareness and education.

So here, for the record, is the official definition of addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine: The ASDM defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

Physician Michael Wilkes aptly illustrates that point in the Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary when he says, “I don’t think it’s any more under someone’s control than skin cancer or breast cancer or an infectious disease. Sure, there’s some role you had initially but once you begin to get the actual manifestations of the disease, you can’t stop it without a significant amount of help.” (You can watch Collision Course here…and then ask your local Public TV station to run it in your area.)

We’ve all experienced the part about the sheer amount of work and terror in trying to derail active addiction. Through education and awareness, we can stop addiction before it even starts. And never forget—there is no shame in having a child with a disease, whether its asthma, diabetes or addiction.

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.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

12196101_722392971226415_7560179514246009591_n“This doesn’t mean I don’t care. Or don’t hurt. Or won’t cry. It just means I will fill the hole in my life where Joey should be with goodness, not badness. Kindness, not madness. I will honor my son with my words and my actions – not the addict. The destructive spread of the disease of addiction stops with me.”

Sandy Swenson, author of The Joey Song, a Mother’s Story of her Son’s Addiction

The perils of parenting a substance-abusing adult child

It has been said over and again, parents are the biggest influence over their children.  I must of thought that meant for life.  There were times I might have had a moment of influential pride – what I call the “my child is an honor student syndrome.”  I never went so far as to affix it to my car bumper! I was more apt to give my children credit where credit was due.  THEY worked hard at it…HE always had a love for basketball…HE was driven to pursue…I don’t know where they got it!”  But there are situations where rightful ownership is distorted by pride –  “Yep, that’s my boy!” With unsaid attitude: “I raised ‘em right!”

When behavior turns risky and substance abuse leads to addiction, the parental influence becomes nonexistent.  But, like me, most parents don’t stop trying to reclaim their influence.  And if crime related incidences by underage adults happen, we are quick to blame the parents casting quick judgment – “she deserves imprisonment” – “How can the parents allow that to happen?”

Like most of us struggling with an addict in the family, I stressed with martyrdom.  I spent every waking moment trying to prevent or stop the unthinkable consequences of the risky behavior.  I acted as if I had the ability to stop it.  I acted like I caused it.  I acted to regain that parental influence I was entitled to have!  I’ll admit there was a bit of guilt, what I call the  “what will the neighbor’s think syndrome.”

The flip side of giving credit where credit is due is taking responsibility for something I don’t own, good or bad.  It’s easier to allow them the glory of success than to allow them the dignity of living with a disease.  Who wouldn’t give their right arm to take away their pain?  What good did it do in trying?   It is this distorted thinking that causes further problems in helping my children recover from their drug addiction.   The perils of parenting are for life but it’s never too late to improve on it.

Tonight’s the night to light a cande of hope for addicts and alcoholics

Image of candles.The Addict’s Mom, an advocacy and support group for the mothers of chemically-dependent children, has launched a one-night campaign to bring addiction out of the shadows. On Saturday, September 10, candles will burn bright as Lights of Hope for the 23.5 million Americans addicted to drugs.  It is time for all of us step out of the shadows of shame and stigma, to raise our voices as one by lighting three candles for the end of National Recovery Month.  These candles will represent our hope that we can one day end this national epidemic of death and despair.

Join The Addict’s Mom and many other organizations as we light a red candle for those with a current addiction, a white candle for addicts in recovery and a black or silver candle as a memorial to the tragic loss of so many to this epidemic.  It is time to stop blaming the addicts and their families, it is time to stop all finger pointing, it is time to join our voices and look for real solutions.

The founder of “The Addict’s Mom,”  Barbara Theodosiou , has been honored as a White House Champion Of Change for “doing extraordinary things to make a difference in her community.”  Let’s join Barbara and shed light on this epidemic which is claiming so many lives.  Light a candle of honor, awareness or memory on Saturday, September 10.

Truth Be Told…what do you say about your child’s addiction?

It’s always dicey trying to figure out how much to reveal to a friend about a child’s substance abuse.  When we were in the hellhole of active addiction, I didn’t show my hand to anyone.  How could I?  I couldn’t even begin to explain it to myself, much less to another person.

You never know how people will react if you reveal that your child struggles with chemical dependency.  Some people are compassionate and supportive, even while admitting that they know very little about the struggle.  Some friends embraced my candor because it enabled them to admit that they, too, have had a child in the same leaky boat.  And others visibly retreated when I mentioned the topic, as if I was sowing the seeds of a communicable disease.

Gradually, as I learned about addiction/alcoholism as a disease of the brain, I became more comfortable gently testing the conversational waters.  I firmly believe that we need to understand, speak about, and treat chemical dependency as a brain disease, just as we view diabetes as a disease of the pancreas.  I want to use my experience to educate others and create awareness about this preventable tsunami of heartbreak. At the same time, I don’t want to disclose my journey to those who will judge me or my son, treat us like pariahs, or discriminate against him.  Wise readers, please share your thoughts on how you walk the fine line between disclosure and privacy.

Finding support from other parents for your child’s addiction or addiction

When I first started the journey of my child’s struggle with addiction I felt so alone. I didn’t know anyone in my family or any of my friends who had a child who had become so deeply involved with drugs and alcohol. I tried to talk to people that I knew but didn’t want to share; honestly, I didn’t want it to be true. Saying out loud what was happening in my home was nearly impossible. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and sad and felt completely depleted. When I did share with some people they would be full of suggestions yet they had never dealt with the situation. I spent quite a few months in a silent struggle where only those inside my house knew the full gravity of the situation.

I finally heard from another parent about Al-Anon which is a support group for family members of those struggling with drugs or alcohol. I was reluctant to go to a group setting, let alone share anything about the nightmare that had become my life. But I was so desperate I was willing to give it a try. I eventually found a parent based meeting. The first night when I went and heard parents tell the stories of their precious children that had become drug and alcohol addicted I finally knew that I was not alone. I had finally found other people who knew how I felt and could offer the kind of support that I needed. It also gave me new friends to talk to and meet with outside of the meetings when I needed to bounce an idea or get some advice. Al-Anon is a refuge from a storm where you can take cover and recover with others who have been there before.

Shame, Shame, Go Away…My Child has a Disease

Our children’s substance abuse creates such isolation for beloved addicts and parents alike.  It feels like others cannot possibly relate to our struggles as parents of addicts unless they, too, have been hunkered down in the trenches of fear, anger and shame. But I have great hope that as we spread the word about addiction as a brain disease, then the shame will begin to dissipate and we can come together openly and constructively to prevent addiction through awareness and education.

So here, for the record, is the official definition of addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:  The ASDM defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

Physician Michael Wilkes aptly illustrates that point in the Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary when he says, “I don’t think it’s any more under someone’s control than skin cancer or breast cancer or an infectious disease.  Sure, there’s some role you had initially but once you begin to get the actual manifestations of the disease, you can’t stop it without a significant amount of help.” (You can watch Collision Course here, and then ask your local Public TV station to run it in your area.)

We’ all know the part about the sheer amount of work and terror in trying to derail active addiction. Through education and awareness, we can stop addiction before it even starts.  And never forget—there is no shame in having a child with a disease, whether its asthma, diabetes or addiction/aka substance use disorder.  Even calling it by its new medical name–substance use disorder–is a step towards reducing the stigma.

Rays of hope for parents of addicts and alcoholics

authorbackjacketAuthor and blogger Katrina Kenison is talking about one of my favorite books, Saving Jake:  When Addiction Hits Home by D’Anne Burwell. On her blog, Katrina writes, “And then there’s this: D’Anne could easily be my best friend — or yours. With every page, I thought how with a few different strokes of fate, her story could be my story, or any family’s story. In fact, it’s a story that’s unfolding in some variation right now in thousands of homes across the country.”

Katina’s post resonates with readers, who’ve responded with over 150 comments. One reader writes, “Our daughter is 90 days clean and sober following 12 years of addiction to first marijuana with methamphetamine use in the last eight months of her drug use. She has a three-year-old child. We too missed the signs despite having knowledge and experience with addictions. Once we found out the truth of her use, which wasn’t until very shortly before she entered treatment, we were totally honest with people when they asked how she was doing. What amazed me was how often we were met with an “us too” response. Let us all be open and honest and support one another, instead of hiding and smiling and inwardly fearing and despairing. We are in this together and all of us are affected whether directly in our family or extended family or by the sheer cost to our children’s generation of lost souls and lives.”

Visit Katrina’s review of Saving Jake and enter a drawing to win a signed copy of the book…or buy one here.

When people like Katrina Kenison open the curtains on the dark issue of addiction, the shame and stigma of having an unhealthy child can begin to dissipate. Here comes the sun.

Why is it shameful to have a chemically-dependent child?

Letter A Tin LettersOur children’s substance abuse creates such isolation for beloved addicts and parents alike.  It feels like others cannot possibly relate to our struggles as parents of addicts unless they, too, have been hunkered down in the trenches of fear, anger and shame. But I have great hope that as we spread the word about addiction as a brain disease, then the shame of being the parent of a drug addict will begin to dissipate, and we can come together openly and constructively to prevent addiction through awareness and education.

So here, for the record, is the official definition of addiction from the American Society of Addiction Medicine:  The ASDM defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.”

Physician Michael Wilkes aptly illustrates that point in the Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic documentary when he says, “I don’t think it’s any more under someone’s control than skin cancer or breast cancer or an infectious disease.  Sure, there’s some role you had initially but once you begin to get the actual manifestations of the disease, you can’t stop it without a significant amount of help.” (You can watch Collision Course here…and then ask your local Public TV station to run it in your area.)

We’ve all experienced the part about the sheer amount of work and terror in trying to derail active addiction. Through education and awareness, we can stop addiction before it even starts.  And never forget—there is no shame in having a child with a disease, whether its asthma, diabetes or chemical dependency.