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April 29, 2008

A Parent Support Group

She opened the door tentatively and shuffled softly into the room, slipped quietly into the chair moving in seeming slow motion as if her lack of haste would somehow disguise her tardiness. The parent support group meeting had started some fifteen minutes before but no one took much notice of when she had arrived, they were simply glad that she was here.

We had started the group a year after David died of addiction, barely 3 months after he had been in treatment…barely 6 months after he got into recovery and barely 7 months after he turned sixteen. When David got out of the adolescent intensive out-patient program he entered the Treatment Center’s “aftercare” program that was to help him make the transition from treatment to recovery.  But there was no “aftercare” program for parents to help us make a similar transition…and soon realized, much to our regret, how ill prepared we were.

So we started this Parent Support Group and some six years later here we are every Thursday night at 7:30 PM, a group of parents whose children have been in treatment for substance abuse.  Some a little farther down the path than others with no magic bullet, no answers, only suggestions based upon our experience.  No experts in the disease of addiction just parents who are survivors from it, on our own odyssey of recovery. 

She settled into the chair crossing her legs and entwining them around one of the chair legs.  She held one hand to her mouth and wound her other arm around herself so tightly I was afraid she would suffocate. She looked so frail and small wearing her countenance of fear and worry like a dark veil. 

When it came her turn to speak her story rushed from her lips in a torrent of words and emotions.  Her 18 year old son had relapsed, he’d been dismissed from the treatment program and when he had returned home she handed him a small bag, clean underwear and socks, a few essentials and told him that he could not continue live in her house while he was still using.  Her words turned to sobs as she spoke of the grief she felt as he walked out the door, the plea for him not to go that choked in her throat, the haunting feeling of not being a good parent and then the unspeakable fear of what would happen if he dies of his addiction alone and without her arms to protect him.


April 29, 2008 at 09:50 PM in The Unspeakable | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 18, 2008

Forgive Me Crystal Meth

Crystal meth, my love of my life

Remembering all the good times and bad

Yet I still admire you in every way

Stupid for using everyday.

Today is the day, I've got to forgive you

All because I want to break away.

Left you behind now, never thought I would

Mest up my life, took everything away

Expected nothing, just wanted your high

Todays the day, never thought it would be here.

Have a nice life, forgive me meth.

17 Year Old Recovering Methamphetamine Addict

April 18, 2008 at 07:41 AM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 06, 2008

David Sheff's Beautiful Boy

I received an email more than a year ago from a father who had read an article about me that appeared in a national magazine.  He wrote that his oldest son had struggled with substance abuse for many years and described briefly the damage and emotional price he and his family had paid and continued to.  He thanked me for sharing my story about losing my David and asked if I would do him the honor of allowing him to send a copy of his book that he had written about his own family's journey.  I agreed, told him how much I appreciated his kind words and spent the next couple of months waiting for the book to arrive. 

It never did and I eventually forgot the email exchange until 6 weeks ago.  A package arrived in the mail from the publisher Houghton Mifflin, and when I tore it open the book entitled "Beautiful Boy" slid out into my hands.  A small card fell from the pages that read "With the compliments of the Author" and I suddenly remembered the email exchange so many months before with David Sheff.

As I drew out the book Beautiful Boy my heart was rife with emotions. Feelings of joy, gratitude, dread and envy swarmed around me as I thumbed through the pages. Joy that he had finished his opus.  Gratitude that he had remembered me from so many months before.  Dread because I knew that each page would hold for me …remembrance…delight…grief…laughter…pain…solace… and anguish.   And finally there was envy...envy that he still had his son and could write about his continuing recovery while my own writings are about loss, grief and unfulfilled dreams.

Beautiful Boy is a beautiful, honest, heart wrenching yet engrossing memoir of one family's odyssey through the uncharted and tempest tossed passage that is the disease of addiction.  It chronicles the path that millions of families trod every day which often begins seemingly innocently with the first discovery of an empty liquor bottle or a bag of pot.  It is inevitably followed by denial of the problem by parent and adolescent alike that seems to grows as the evidence of abuse mounts.  Anger comes next when we can no longer escape the fact that addiction has a hold of our young person.  Bargaining and despair often ensues when we recognize that we are powerless over our child's addiction and that it has made our lives and theirs unmanageable.  And finally, if  we are fortunate through the help of treatment professionals,12 step programs and others who have been this way before we reach acceptance that the disease of addiction is indeed cunning, baffling, powerful, patient, and that in the end we didn't cause it, we can't control it and we can't cure it.

For me the most affirming aspect of David Sheff's tender narrative is the way that it ends with the acknowledgment that his son Nic's struggle with addiction is a day to day proposition and that it will always be that way.  David's journey to the level of awareness that Recovery is lifelong hard work for all of us who are addicts, as well as those who love us, is at times painful and agonizing.  Yet therein lies the very essence of Beautiful Boy's message that through this odyssey called addiction there can be understanding and that with understanding there can be a rekindling of hope.  Hope that had not been lost to us but clouded by despair, denial, anger and pain.

Beautiful Boy may seem to many to be just about the collateral damage  and havoc of addiction but for those of us who have walked this path with David and Nic we know that in the end there will always be love and that hope does indeed spring eternal.

April 6, 2008 at 09:11 PM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 01, 2008

What Steps Do I Take If My Child Is Using Drugs?

We first discovered that David had a serious problem with alcohol and marijuana when he was 15.  Like many parents who make this initial determination we thought that now we were aware of the problem that vigilance would solve everything.  But we were wrong.

Early on there was much we didn't understand about addiction especially the fact that by the time David began to get careless enough with his drug use that we became aware of it, his use was already at a very serious level. 

So what do you do when you discover that your adolescents drug use has gone beyond experimentation and may have progressed to addiction?

Here is a list of 24 suggestions of what to do next from  The 24 Group who believe that:

  • Addiction is a biological disease and as such should carry no social shame or stigma.
  • There is effective treatment for addiction.
  • Treatment should be available to all regardless of socio-economic status or access to insurance.
  • Family education and support enhances treatment effectiveness and success for the adolescent/young adult.
  • Addiction is a family disease; parents and other family members need their own treatment and support to achieve and maintain recovery from the devastating effects of this disease.
  • Staying connected with a treatment program enhances chances of long-term success.

24 Steps to Take if Your Adolescent is Using Drugs or Alcohol

  1. Have your adolescent evaluated by a professional drug counselor or treatment facility
  2. Immediately admit your child to a drug treatment program if it is recommended
  3. Educate yourself and your family about the disease of addiction
  4. Seek family counseling from a group or a professional specializing in addiction
  5. Consider attending Al-Anon or Al-A-Teen meetings
  6. Understand that addiction will lead to prison, institutions or death if not treated
  7. Understand that no one has any control over the addicted adolescent except the addict
  8. Do not give your adolescent cash or credit cards
  9. Recognize that addicted adolescents have a disease and do not reason the same way as non-addicted teens
  10. Do not make excuses for your adolescent’s behavior; let the natural consequences of their actions occur
  11. Do not feel guilty about your parenting skills, your child made the decision to abuse drugs
  12. Realize that emotional maturity in addicted adolescents stops from the time they begin their drug or alcohol use
  13. Set and communicate clear behavior standards for the adolescent to live by while living in your home, no fuzzy or gray areas
  14. Hold the addicted adolescent accountable for their actions
  15. Consider suspending their driving privileges until the teen achieves sobriety
  16. If the adolescent is facing legal problems, do not intervene, let the natural consequences occur
  17. Be wary of the addict’s skills at manipulating people and events
  18. Consider removing or securing all alcohol, narcotic prescription medication, cold medication, etc. from your home
  19. Realize that addiction is a life long disease that cannot be cured, but can be treated
  20. All family members should try to be of the same mind set when setting behavioral expectations for the teen, and when holding them accountable
  21. Realize that addiction is a family disease that has a negative impact on all members of the family
  22. The addicted adolescents recovery is his program, you should not try to work harder than the teen at that program
  23. Relapses are common, recovery is achieved one small step at a time
  24. Learn to live life with an addict one day at a time, and be grateful for the time you have together

April 1, 2008 at 07:00 AM in The Odyssey | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack