Forewarned is forearmed: little-known causes of relapse

5820 Chestnut Ave Orangevale-small-003-21-003-666x444-72dpiThis is a guest post from John Perry, a co-founder of Clean & Sober Recovery Services located near Sacramento, California.

It’s an indescribable relief when a loved one enters treatment where they can gain the skills and tools of recovery. And while we know that treatment offers the choice of life free from drugs or alcohol, it’s important to understand that addiction is a chronic, lifetime disease that doesn’t simply go away. For example, here are some little-known vulnerabilities that persist after treatment:

Sometimes people think, “Pills were my problem, but I can still have a glass of wine.” It doesn’t work that way: Substance use disorder is a brain disease, and people who have become dependent upon alcohol or other drugs cannot take any mood-or mind-altering substances.

A relapse can be triggered by substances that aren’t even on the radar screen. The hidden wine in the fish sauce can set the wheels of relapse in motion, even though the person in recovery didn’t want it or even notice it.

It’s essential to be vigilant during and after medical treatment. For example, the anti-inflammatory medication Tramadol is not universally known as a danger to those in recovery. Tramadol is in a class of medications called opiate agonists, and only a few states classify it as a narcotic. Still, it is often dispensed in ERs and it can trigger a relapse.

You and your dentist might not notice that the mouthwash used routinely in the dentist’s office contains alcohol. Double-check the ingredients in mouthwash and all over-the-counter meds, and make sure your medical and dental charts are marked to indicate that you can’t have alcohol or other addictive medications.

We’ve designed our treatment program to help our residents understand and avoid relapse so they can join 23 million Americans in long-term recovery. Here’s to their health – and yours.

John Perry, Co-Founder, Clean & Sober Recovery Services, Inc.

Losing the ACA means losing access to addiction and mental health treatment

swing setThe advocacy organization Shatterproof reports that “If the ACA is repealed, Harvard-NYU researchers estimate that more than four million Americans will lose access to addiction and mental illness treatment.

And millions more would be at risk of missing out on future insurance coverage because addiction is considered a pre-existing condition.

We can’t let this happen. According to the CDC, we’re in the midst of the worst drug epidemic in U.S. history, and drug overdose is now the #1 cause of accidental death in our country. Repealing the ACA without a replacement would make things worse for communities trying to fight back against the epidemic. It’s irresponsible and unacceptable to lose lives in the name of politics.”

Together, our voices carry weight. Tell your representative that repealing ObamaCare will make the opioid epidemic even moire deadly.

Jane’s Journal…the closing chapter on a son’s addiction

Baby boy socksThis is the final entry of a series that started almost a year ago, when our 24-year-old son came home from his Hoboken, NJ apartment to tell us he was a heroin addict.  Our journey with him became this journal, where I have documented as honestly as possible the events and emotions we experienced.  Writing here helped me drain the wounds and reach out to others in pain, which became for me the essence of learning what I needed to know to move forward.  Thank you to Parent Pathway for that opportunity.

Here we are, less than a year later, with a story of hope and renewal. Today we are on another side– ever-grateful for, ever-aware of the miracles available in the recovery community, where those with the experience, expertise, heart and spirit of healing are waiting to assist.  We’ve met so many angels along the way, each appearing at the right time, in the right way, offering wisdom and one more opportunity.  We are at the beginning of a new life with our son, a Heroin Addict– who by his own admission will ALWAYS be in recovery. And finally we’re at a place where that’s fine with us.

September was the month our son returned from Florida, the graduate of a 6-month program in a regimented halfway house, where rules were the rule, a full-time job was expected, and residents were tested weekly for all substances. The smallest infraction– like improper disposal of a cigarette butt– meant immediate loss of residency and any monies paid.  The owner of the house was a no-nonsense recovering alcoholic with a huge heart but no patience for excuses and manipulation. To him, recovery is a vocation, not a vacation; and if a resident isn’t sufficiently committed to recovery, there’s always another who’s perhaps more serious.  Under his roof our son relearned the simplest life patterns: how to find and work a basic job, how to get up early, keep his room clean, respect himself and others. 

Our son was not the only one who benefitted from this arrangement.  In so many ways this stage was crucial to OUR healing as well.  It gave us distance from the daily worry, the inspection of his person, the suspicion of his whereabouts. It gave us badly needed respite from the intensity of his physical presence in our home.  With two other children and a large extended family to think about, the hard reality was that he may not be successful, that he may take us all down the rabbit hole of addiction with him.  Seeing my husband, already stressed to the breaking point from his job, unable to sleep and barely function, I knew I may have to make a very difficult choice.  But to me the whole has always been more important than the piece.  Loving one’s child does not mean giving them all unconditionally, and I was not willing to sacrifice the entire family for our son’s addiction.  Imagining the worst-case scenario, I said to our son that should he not succeed at staying clean, in Florida he would at least have warmth on the streets.  And God knows I meant it.  At least I thought I did.  Thankfully, this threat was never tested.

As his stay in Florida came to an end, my husband and I were both thrilled and excruciatingly anxious. We’d just begun to live our own lives again, sleep again, feel somewhat normal again, but now what?   Our son had done well in Florida, but would he continue?  What would he do next?  What job would he find? Who would hire him?  Would something at home trigger a relapse?  Could we survive it? There was nothing to do but employ the “One Day at a Time” strategy and shut out the rest.  We had no choice but to trust once again– in him, in ourselves, in the healing force that had already brought him and us so far.

It’s hard to describe the love and joy, the hope and tension of having our son back home.  We weren’t sure where the journey would take us all next, but we all knew what had worked thus far.  We discussed house rules and expectations. We enjoyed meals together and simple conversation. We occasionally delved into the pain of the past, and the possible reasons for it, but only in the continuing effort to heal as a family, not to rehash the events or dig too deep.  Our son made NA meetings his first priority, going to sometimes two in a day and also volunteering for institutional service at hospitals and rehab centers to talk about his experiences. His belief in the NA program was total.

After a few weeks of mainly meetings, we began to worry about his recovery because we knew his self-worth was linked to work.  But once again, through NA he met those who would vouch for his commitment to recovery and ultimately help him find that work.  He eventually explained to us that he hoped to get a job at the same facility where he’d done his detox and rehab; that this was a career he could imagine himself in, where his recovery was not exactly part of the job but absolutely enhanced by it.  Helping others was his new goal and part of his recovery equation.  We talked about the emotions and stress of such a job, but he made a clear distinction between his own recovery and the recoveries of others:  His recovery was achieved though working the steps of NA; theirs was up to them.

In October our son officially became the first former patient to be hired by the facility where he was once treated.  He gladly accepted the overnight hours that were available and ironically became a vampire again, rising at dinnertime, going to a meeting at 7:30 and work at 11 pm.  Now, while his father and I are on our first cup of coffee, he comes in the door at 7:30 am, exhausted but completely at peace.  His life makes sense, and so does ours, because everything supports his recovery, his growth, and ours.  We listen to a few stories from his night and then he’s off to bed.

While our journey is not one I would recommend or minimize, it is with relief and tremendous gratefulness that I share what has become a “happy ending.” Every day we see that he is healing and growing, and so are we.  He has found his purpose and place, where for now he is healthy and safe, productive and part of something greater than himself.  Apparently this is where he was meant to be.

What our son credits most for his recovery is NA. The members he met in the group near our home–the ones he first met and bonded with–were those he entrusted to guide him first to detox and then through rehab. In Florida, NA meetings were a requirement–one he was actually happy to honor, knowing the honesty and real-life experience available there were what he needed most.  With NA to guide him, he gained strength and power over his addiction with every day, every meeting. He found his spirit there, let his ego go, relied on others and the healing force within him to help make each day a positive choice and opportunity.  “Just for today” is the mantra he lives by.

While there really is no such thing in addiction as the “happy ending,” here’s what I definitely know:   We are extremely lucky. Our son’s experience is not the norm, but it reveals some things about addiction that are true for all.  These are the things that I would classify as such.

1)      The addict must know the problem is real and must want it to end, must want and accept the wisdom of those who have gone before and trust in their direction. Those people should be part of a 12-step program, and NA is the best of those.

2)      The addict must detox before his brain can begin to heal and detangle. Talking sense to an active addict is impossible.

3)      Detox followed by intensive rehab that includes psychological and behavioral therapy is very important.  There must be no drug substitute for the opiate, because another addiction will be the result.  There is absolutely no substitute for being clean. Any mind-altering substance is a threat to sobriety.

4)      The addict must find their spiritual self and learn to have a dialogue with and trust in that self.

5)      The addict needs structure, support, discipline and honesty to rebuild his life, with an emphasis on moving forward incrementally, within reason.  Understanding, healthy expectation, love and patience are all necessary, but also the occasional stern reminder that respectful cohabitation is all about exchange.

 End notes on the our experience:

  • Our son became an addict as an adult, and I’ve come to realize this was a huge advantage to his clearing hurdles in recovery.  Listening to parents in NarAnon meetings, it became clear that age is a monumental factor.  Explaining future life to a clean teenager is a challenge; expecting an addicted teen to comprehend the future or understand the reasons to get and stay clean is not just hampered by immaturity and hormones, it is absolutely obscured by the addiction itself.  There is no reference point. Recovery for a teen presents many more problems than what we encountered, and their parents are at least twice as challenged.
  • The particular practices of the addict are also a factor. Length of addiction and method of addiction are all part of the problem.  As our son has pointed out, use of a needle takes addiction to another level, so we were beyond lucky that he chose his nose and not his vein.

My prayer as I close Jane’s Journal and we embark on the year 2017 is that all of you reading this will find your own version of closure and some semblance of serenity.  I also pray this is the year scientists discover a drug-free way to cure addictions of all kinds, once and for all, investigating the addiction where it begins, in the brain.  Until then I am part of this group always, wishing the same wishes and praying the same prayers.

Thank you,


When Your Child is Addicted to Steroids

Steroid addiction is one of the fastest growing epidemics. While steroid abuse is usually associated with professional athletes, the troubling reality is that steroid use is taking place among people as young as high school students. For parents of addicted teens, coping with steroid abuse is a challenge. Because steroids do not produce a “high” in the way that narcotics and stimulants do, steroid addicts often do not see the abuse as a problem. In fact, many steroid users regard the drug as simply another workout supplement instead of the dangerous drug it is.

Anabolic steroids mimic testosterone  in the body to increase production of proteins that act as the foundation for muscle cells, bone and other tissues. It is illegal in the United States to use anabolic steroids without a prescription, yet a simple Google search reveals that it is simple to order illegal steroids online or find legal workout supplements that contain steroids. The ease of access of steroids makes them an appealing solution to the problem of low self-esteem that many teenagers face.

Steroid addiction usually begins with Body Dysmorphia Disorder, which is characterized by preoccupation with an imagined or real defect in one’s appearance. Because young adults spend so much time with their peers at school and its activities, the pressure to conform to an idealized body type portrayed in the media and idolized by their peers is significant. It is easy to become obsessed with body image if the world around you is obsessed with it as well. Synthetic testosterone in anabolic steroids works almost immediately, and because steroid abusers often take 10 – 100 times the prescribed dose, unusually fast muscle growth is common. The body changes rapidly in response to muscle growth, which is the desired result. When a person’s strength and physical performance are improved dramatically, it leads to unrealistic expectations that the body should continue to gain muscle mass and see improvement. These expectations cause the user to become addicted, as performance and muscle mass often decrease after withdrawal from the drug. An addict cannot stop taking the drug because the fear of life without it is too great. Recognizing steroid abuse as a self-image issue is crucial for creating lasting recovery.

Signs of steroid use manifest in several ways. First, you may notice that your child has been acting differently than usual. They may have mood swings, increased aggression, and act secretive or paranoid, especially while using the internet. You may see the quality of their work decline and their energy levels drop. They may spend more time than usual working out and receive strange packages in the mail. Second, you may notice physical changes. In addition to extra muscle buildup over a short period of time, severe acne, halitosis and hair loss are common among steroid addicts. Educating yourself about the symptoms of steroid use is necessary for recognizing that your child has a problem.

After recognizing that your loved one is an addict and learning what motivates them to abuse steroids, the next step is getting them help. Find a therapist and a support group, such as ATLAS or ATHENA, who will treat your child with care. An addict does not want to be treated as their addiction, but rather as a whole person. If your teen has an addiction and wants to overcome it, they have already taken a big step. Treatment usually includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, group therapy and sometimes requires drug therapy to counteract the dangerous symptoms of steroid withdrawal.

If they are not willing to overcome their addiction, all you can do is keep trying to communicate with them. Just as you must never give up on an addicted child, you also cannot enable them. Understand that your relationship with your child could be potentially damaged in the process, but getting to the truth and trying to help them may be what saves their life. Seek counseling for yourself as well as your child so that you are not trying to do it alone. Addiction is a scary and difficult problem to deal with, especially as the parent of an addict, but it is a problem that can be overcome.

A Place of Hope’s Center for Counseling and Health Resources provides help for those who seek addiction treatments for alcohol addiction, illicit substance abuse addiction, prescription drug addiction or issues relating to gambling, sedatives, steroids and more. Dr. Gregory Jantz and his team of addiction medical professionals, psychologists, nutritionists and fitness trainers help to address the physical, psychological and spiritual problems that are behind the symptoms. Please visit  online at A Place Of Hope .

Living one day at a time can seem impossible when it is our children and addiction.

I remember when I had to ask my son to leave after many months of not living with integrity in my home.

That was the hardest winter I believe, I have ever gone through. Yes, it hurt not knowing where he was staying. Yes, back then I felt -how could I even survive it?  So the only thing I could do was to start living one day at a time. I did this by paying attention to my health. I started going to more of my own AA meetings, and became very involved in my Al-Anon meetings. I started walking the neighborhood every day for 40 minutes.

I read. I prayed.  And many – many days I would go to sleep crying. I can tell you on two occasions I actually woke up with tears flowing down my cheeks. I had dreamt about my son.

I am not saying it is easy. It certainly is not. But honestly, what was the alternative? This is what I learned for myself. To live by fear??? Fear of what I would find when I came home from work??

After many things had happened I finally realized I wanted my life back.  I wanted my safe haven back. My home. I also knew if their was a chance, I wanted my son back.  Eventually at the end of winter, sleeping in the park, on friends couches, and in the back seat of their cars, I finally got that phone call. “Mom, I want help, can I come home?”  I picked him up and the next day my son was in treatment.

I pray for all of you that the pain in your hearts become less and less.

Ricki Townsend, Family Counselor and Board Certified Interventionist.

Jane’s Journal: Angels and Devils Along the Way

Baby boy socksThis is the fourth blogpost from Jane as she chronicles her own learnings and growth alongside her son in early recovery.

In the 12 chaotic weeks since we learned of our 25-year-old son’s heroin addiction, it feels like we’ve traveled to another country–a war-ravaged place where only the lucky and strong survive. We tried an at-home recovery and failed. We believed he was staying clean and were wrong. We believed we could be part of his recovery and learned that we could, but only as far as he let us.

So at the end of February, after attending one of his many NA meetings, where he’d been leading everyone there to believe (like us) that he was clean, our son called us at 10:00 pm to say he was still using and was tired of lying to everyone. His NA leader was with him and had convinced him it was time to go to detox and rehab, and our son said he was ready to go. This amazing NA leader not only talked him into detox and rehab, he also let him spend the night and drove him there the next morning. I’d asked this favor because if he’d come home that night to his irate father, things would not have gone well.

Next morning, my haggard, sleepless husband went to work and I made phone calls to our son to see what would happen next. He said his NA leader would help him purchase the things he’d need right away and get him to the facility, 45 minutes away. We could bring more of his belongings later. Then, an hour before he was to surrender his cellphone and wallet at rehab, he called to inform me there was a credit card I needed to pay and cancel. He quickly gave me all the passwords and security answers and I began the process, going online to find a $1500 balance. (So THIS was how he was getting cash.) Rushing, I paid the balance, changed the passwords and the mailing address, then– sobbing into the phone to a complete stranger—I explained that I’d paid the card off and wanted to cancel it because my son was an addict. SURPRISE! They refused to do so without his vocal approval, even after I told them I had all the passwords and security answers and he was in the process of checking himself into rehab! This major credit card company was insisting on vocal commands from an addict (read: MALE VOICE, sight unseen) even though I had all the pertinent information. In the last frantic moments before he handed over his phone at rehab, I conferenced him in so they could hear his voice.

The next day my husband and I drove to our son’s new home and hospital. It wasn’t fancy, but clean, caring and professional. We didn’t get to see him but met his counselor–his wonderful, incredible counselor– who although incredibly busy, was committed to our son’s care and willing to work with us on all issues affecting treatment. He listened to us, to our son, and wisely navigated the de-tangling of our emotions and experience. He allowed us to communicate through emails, wherein we gave details about our son, our family, the unique interpersonal dynamics, our son’s personality and experiences as we knew them. Most of these emails were relayed when our son was strong enough to read them, and they covered the gamut: there were encouraging emails, angry emails, sad emails and daily-life emails. It was our own therapy and a way of keeping in touch with him, using his counselor as conduit. Meanwhile we were also slowly revealing his addiction to trusted family members and friends, and many of these people also sent emails via his counselor.

Although we learned later there were drugs offered to him while in rehab, our son detoxed, stayed in treatment, and with one minor episode of trying to snort his sleep medication (which he said was just for the feeling of snorting it, NOT to get high), he emerged 25 days later, clean and sober. What we also learned from his counselor was that he’d been depressed for years and had considered suicide occasionally. A diagnostic session with a psychiatrist was scheduled, and in that session he confessed that although he gave the world the impression of constant optimism, he was indeed depressed. Isolation was his worst fear and enemy.

Depression runs in my family, and I’d had my own experiences, both with serious depression and the miracle of medication at the proper time. But soon we saw the effect on our son, who in less than a week on Prozac emerged from an addict’s chrysalis of anger and confusion. He was calmer, stronger, less reactive and thinking more clearly. Whereas he once balked at anything he couldn’t manage on his own, he now seemed ready to listen and think about needed life changes.

As I write I know there are those who will say such medication is not the answer, but in our son’s case the results were–and still are, 21 days later— a true miracle. He is clean 43 days and now living in a structured, safe halfway house in Florida, where he is tested regularly, required to work or go to school, and uphold the many rules of the house. The house was recommended by his angel counselor in rehab.

Our son is getting up every morning at 8:30, riding a bicycle, applying for jobs and shucking his former nocturnal self for a daytime occupant. He says he is taking life slowly and carefully, going to sometimes two NA meetings per day. He is measured and calm, thoughtful and communicative, texting daily. We make no plans past his 100-day minimum stay there. Meanwhile he and we are “cautiously optimistic.” We all know there will quite likely be more devils in wait for us, and him, as we go forward. But for now we’re all enjoying a break from the madness. For now at least, the angels are winning.

Senate passes amendment that paves way for recovery resources

celebrate the new yearOn Wednesday, the Senate health committee passed a measure that would dramatically expand access to an essential part of opioid treatment.  The Huffington Post reports in full on this important development which is intended to help curb the nation’s raging heroin epidemic. Last year, the Huffington Post offered a thorough investigative piece on the opioid epidemic and the ineffectiveness of the U.S. drug treatment system.

The amendment, pushed by Sens. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and passed unanimously, would increase access to buprenorphine (commonly sold as Suboxone) for opioid addicts. Public health experts report that buprenorphine plus counseling can give addicts one of the best chances at recovery.

Kudos to the Senate for listening to evidence-based medical wisdom, and kudos to the Huffington Post for their dogged and ongoing coverage of the most deadly public health issue facing our nation.

If I Knew Then…a Mother’s Reflection on her Daughter’s Addiction

You can learn more about guest blogger Linda and her daughter Tiffany in the Emmy award-winning documentary Collision Course.

I am often asked, “What do you wish you knew earlier about your daughter’s addiction?” by parents I meet at treatment centers in my community. I think back to how naïve I was and how little I knew about addiction.  First off, I was surprised that the pills prescribed to Tiffany were so addictive.  The labels on the sides of the bottles warned of the possibility of respiratory failure or liver damage if not using the proper dose.  They said not to drink alcohol with this medication or take other drugs with acetaminophen because there could be liver damage. But I thought surely her doctors would monitor her closely, and because I was home with her, I made sure she didn’t take more than she was prescribed.  The two pages enclosed with the prescription never mentioned the word “addicted” – only “habit-forming.”  I take an aspirin a day and this is habit-forming for me but not addictive.  Tiffany was taking pain meds for the pain from her broken neck.  I didn’t see this as an addiction – not yet anyway.  I didn’t really notice what was happening until she moved out of the house.  She was still on Paxil for her panic attacks, and  Ambien to help her sleep – both addictive drugs prescribed by her doctors.

I could understand the reasons for Tiffany’s medications at first because breaking her neck in the car accident was both painful and traumatic. Many more prescriptions continued from that point on.  My husband and I were clueless at first.  Tiffany couldn’t just stop taking her pain medication without going through terrible withdrawals.  I wished I was more educated.  At first I thought this was the only way she could stop. I didn’t know what detox was or what an interventionist or intervention was all about.  When we first came to the ER because Tiffany had overdosed, I thought they would keep her overnight and help her get well.  They never gave us places to call or a list of places they recommended for us to go get help. We didn’t know where to look except on the Internet, which offered a multitude of listings.  How can you tell the good treatment centers from the bad?

Summing it up, I wish I knew more about addiction – that it is an illness –that Tiffany couldn’t just stop.  I had seen addiction in my family tree, but I didn’t see it as an illness.  I saw it as making bad choices.  I remember thinking – I wished there was someone or somewhere I could go that would teach me about what’s going on in my daughter’s life.

I wish I knew who to turn to for help.  Seems like even the family doctor doesn’t really understand addiction.  I once went to an addiction specialist who decided she was going to handle Tiffany’s pills and give her 1 pill every 4 hours so that Tiffany didn’t take too many.  Even I knew by then how crazy that sounded!

I wish there was a way to find out if you have a predisposition to addiction.  Did Tiffany have this OR does addiction just happen if you continue to take addictive drugs like Vicodin over a long period of time?  The answer to that question is too late for my beautiful Tiffany, but it may save other children.


Ask the Expert: Should we continue to pay for our son’s methadone?

301883_8582 mother daughter walking on beachYOUR QUESTION: Our son is not using on the street and goes to a methadone clinic every day for his dose. For years we have spent all our money trying to get him to completely stop and are broke. Are we wrong to stop helping him with money? He works but doesn’t make enough. It’s at least $11.00 a day at the clinic. He feels he is not an addict because he goes to a clinic. I am so messed up on when to help or not to help.

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL: Is he getting counseling at the clinic? If so, ask to attend his next session with him so you can get some of your questions answered. Methadone can be a successful replacement therapy when used with counseling and tapered over time. Does your son seem to be moving forward with his life? Do you feel like you are working harder on his recovery than he is? The answers to those questions are a good indicator if you should continue to offer your support. In addition, I would recommend you find an Al-Anon meeting in your area where you can find additional support for yourself.

Best regards – Christy Crandell, Founder of Full Circle Treatment Center

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: Your question is one I get asked often by clients, and my response is usually very simple: this is about you. How do you feel about paying out of your own pocket for Methadone? Have you googled what professionals think about Methadone, what it does and how it works? This information may help you make your own decisions about spending any more money on an addiction.

You may decide that you no longer want to spend your hard-earned money on his Methadone. If so, please communicate to him in a very short letter why you will be discontinuing this payment. Remind him in a respectful way that you have supported this approach so far, but now you are finished paying for it. If your son wants to continue relying on Methadone, then allow him his free will, and he can figure how to get it, such as with another part-time job. Otherwise, he will have to find a way to detox from it. I personally would want to give him two weeks to 30 days to take action and be free of your Methadone support.

Remember, in Al-Anon we learn that we didn’t cause, can’t control and can’t cure this disease. It is up to him.

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

Ask the Expert: He’s a good kid with a bad criminal record…should I keep him out of college?

making the right decisions in recovery from substance abuseMy son is 20 years old and is in his sophomore year in college and I have come to learn today that he is an addict. He is a study in contradictions…graduated with honors from high school and arrested for felony drug charges. Starting quarterback of the high school football team the in jail for probation violations. When he went off to college 2 years ago he had an academic scholarship, a spot on the college football team, a car, a driver’ license and now he has lost it all. He got 2 DUI’s and is back in jail for smoking marijuana while on probation. As far as I know he does not do any other “hard” drugs but his treatment counselor and his probation officer are recommending long-term residential (12 months!) treatment. My heart would break to have to send him off and be able to see him for months. Do you think this kind of treatment would be best? He has a 3.0 GPA in college and I would hate to see him get off track with his education.

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL:

Sounds like a great kid with a very serious problem. My own son was given the same recommendation for inpatient treatment when I had him assessed at age 17 for a drug problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the advice and he ended up in prison for 13 years for crimes committed while trying to get more money to get more drugs – something I could never imagine he would do.

I know you are worried about his college completion but he is already off track with the choices he has been making in the last two years. The fact that he continued to use marijuana after having the DUI’s and being on probation is indicative of level of his addiction. Please listen to his treatment counselor as his life could depend on it.

Learn all you can about the disease of addiction and find some support for yourself as you begin this very difficult journey. A local Al-Anon group is a good place to start. Above all, do not despair – many people live an abundant life in recovery!

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND:

Thank you for submitting your questions. I know this is a difficult time and the decision you are asked to make seems impossible.

After reading over your question, I agree with exactly what has been recommended for him, and nothing less. He has already shown you he cannot continue in school. Failing more will only be a negative experience for him. His self esteem is already low, with all that he is going through. His whole life is ahead of him. Give him a chance to heal and get back on track, joining so many others who have gone back to school later in life and found great success.

Most importantly, taking a critical year off to get healthy will not derail his academics, but addiction will.

Your son’s accomplishments muddy the water and make it hard to see that he is already in deep trouble. First of all, you mentioned “hard drugs.” With two DUIs, he is already on the drug that is most likely –statistically- to kill him. And he may be on other drugs besides pot and alcohol: as one father said in a meeting, “If you think your child is on one drug, think again, and throw everything else in the mix. If f you think it’s only been a couple of years of substance abuse, then add about four more to that.” I could not have stated this better myself.

Two DUIs by the age of 20? And then you add that he is willing to risk jail for pot? Your son sounds like he is in the throes of addiction. Please remember addiction is a brain disease, a disease that is chemically driven by mood-altering substances including drugs and alcohol. He needs serious help.

For your son to change, you need to change, too. I encourage you to do two things.

1. See an addiction counselor or other therapist to help you work through our own fear, grief and pain.

2. Start going to a “parents” Al-Anon meeting to get ongoing support. There you will learn what other families are doing to help them through this difficult time.

Again, thank you for submitting your question, which will help other families who find themselves in a similar situation.