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June 29, 2011

Teen Substance Abuse - Getting On The Same Page With Your Spouse!

 For the past ten years Marissa and I have facilitated a Parent Support Group at Fairbanks Treatment Center in Indianapolis where our teenage son received services. We had been very pleased with the treatment he received at Fairbanks and the parent education program that was offered to us.  However, when he started their aftercare program we discovered that there was no continuing education or support program for parents.  We also learned very quickly that the skill set received while our son was in treatment was not the same as the tools needed for a teen in early recovery....and the Parent Support Group was born.

 In the decade since hundreds of parents have attended the meetings of the support group and over time a number of principles and guidelines for families dealing with adolescent substance abuse have emerged.  

Here are our 10 “suggestions” for spouses as they work through drug and alcohol issues with their teen: 

  1. Be open and honest with each other about your own perspectives on drug and alcohol use past or present.  Don’t make assumptions or take anything for granted.
  2. If you have different perspectives on teen drug and alcohol use find common ground where you can agree and start from there.  
  3. If you have differing opinions talk these through before you talk with your teen.
  4. Don’t challenge your spouse on the way they handle a situation in front of your teen.
  5. Understand that in the end you can’t control how your spouse reacts you can only control your own response.
  6. Own your own feelings not the feelings of your spouse.
  7. Say what you mean, mean what you say and don’t say it meanly.
  8. Be consistent and supportive of each other.
  9. Parenting teens can be stressful.  Parenting teens with drug and alcohol issues can be frightening. Be sure to take time for and be kind to each other.
  10. Take a firm stand together on your teen’s drug and alcohol use and remember that  if you want to be in your child’s memories tomorrow you must be involved in their lives today. 


June 29, 2011 at 09:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 23, 2011

A Story of Loss; A Vision of Hope

I was asked recently how sharing our story of losing an adolescent to addiction can possible help parents who are just beginning the treatment and recovery journey with their own child.  

Hope I will never forget the first time we shared our story of losing David to substance abuse with a group of parents at the treatment center David had attended.  At the end of our talk a Dad, who had just brought his son in, got very angry and said "So what are you telling me, that this place doesn't work and that there is no hope for my son and our family?"  The fear and hopelessness in his voice pierced my heart and immediately took me right back to the same room and sitting in that same chair with my Dave barely two years before.  Clearly I knew then that we had to alter our approach so that a parent like him could find hope in the tragedy we had suffered.  It was no small task and took much reflection and soul searching but today we know what to say. 

Today I end my conversations with parents by saying:  "David's story doesn't have a happy ending. We obviously can't change what happened to him, but what we can do, is to share his story to help others understand the unbelievable power of the disease of addiction.  Yes it is indeed true that sometimes, even when you do all the right things, bad things can still happen. But there are hundreds of thousands of stories of recovery, and despite what happened to us, we believe that treatment does work and that recovery is possible for anyone.  We know that Dave was working on that recovery but was early in his journey and that he simply ran out of time. 

 Ten years later I still share parts of David's story every week not only with parents but with adolescents and Beacon-of-hope adults.  It is never easy, the tears still gather in the corners of my eyes and my voice never fails to waiver.  But I have learned that the only thing more powerful than the disease of addiction is the power of the personal story.  I have have also learned that when I honor his struggle with addiction by telling his story I take back the power that disease once had over me.

And that is the essence of the stories of those who have lost loved ones to addiction....honoring the struggle and taking back the power of hope.

June 23, 2011 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 20, 2011

Teen Privacy: When to Cross the Line

Teen Privacy: When to Cross the Line

By Joanne Barker
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

As kids get older, keeping them safe can get complicated. While separating from parents can be healthy, teens are notorious for bad, sometimes dangerous decisions. Parents face a troubling dilemma: Do the dangers of teen drug abuse override the right to privacy?

Parents typically do one of two things in the face of possible teen drinking or drug use. "Some parents overreact, but a large number of parents don’t do anything," says Steve Pasierb, president and CEO of The Partnership at Drugfree.org. "They hope it’s a phase. They hope it goes away."

Even though they can’t control everything, parents do play an important role in their teen’s decisions. Kids who learn a lot about the risks from their parents are up to 50% less likely to use drugs. Despite this, only 31% of kids say their parents have taught them about the risks of drugs.

Before you pull a search warrant, keep in mind that going through your teen’s stuff carries its own risks. "If a parent violates a teen’s privacy, the kid is more likely to be stuck in a state of defiance," says Susan Swick, MD, MPH, director of the Parenting At a Challenging Time (PACT) program at the Vernon Cancer Center, Newton Wellesley Hospital in Massachusetts. "Ideally, children should feel like parents are on their side," Swick tells WebMD. As many parents know, this is not always easy.

In this article, WebMD turns to several experts to help parents navigate the fine line between teens’ right to privacy and parental protection.

Before Invading a Teen’s Right to Privacy

"If a parent is concerned about their child’s behavior, there probably is something going on," says Swick, who is also an attending psychiatrist in the division of child psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital. "But it may not be what they think." Something other than alcohol or drugs could be fueling your child’s behavior. It could be your child is depressed, struggling at school, or thinking about coming out of the closet. No matter what’s going on, it’s good to find out directly from your child -- if possible.

"Parents should talk to their child before resorting to detective work," Swick tells WebMD. No matter what is going on, talking will be a big part of helping your child through it. If you do find something that confirms your worst fears, you will be in a better position if you can say, ‘we talked about this, and I was still seeing things that concerned me. As your parent, I am not going to ignore signs that you might be in danger.’"

The most effective communication is as common as getting ready for school. "The scary ‘Drug Talk’ never goes well," says Pasierb. Rather than a talk both of you are going to dread, he recommends an ongoing dialogue that lets your child know where you stand on drug use. "Open communication is about things parents say every day, on the way to soccer practice or while watching TV," Pasierb tells WebMD.

Reasons Parents Overlook Teen Drug Abuse

There are plenty of reasons parents may be tempted to ignore signs of teen drug or alcohol abuse. "Shame and stigma around addiction play a heavy role," says Kim Manlove. After their 16-year-old son died as a result of drug use, Manlove and his wife, Marissa, started a support group for other parents. "A lot of the parents we work with think they have failed as a parent if their child has a drug problem," says Manlove.

Many parents don’t raise the subject, thinking they don’t know enough about drugs. If this is the case, time at the library or on web sites such as www.drugfree.org can build the knowledge and confidence to start talking. Other parents dread their teenager’s response if they question possible drug use. Teen brains are uniquely primed to react to even the most innocent comments, even facial expressions, with explosive bursts of emotion.

For parents who avoid conflict, the promise of an emotional outburst may seem an impossible hurdle. "Teens are more comfortable being in opposition with their parents," says Swick.  But getting involved when you suspect teen drug or alcohol abuse is worth the discomfort. Parents who intervene early in teen drug or alcohol abuse can significantly reduce the possibility their child will become addicted.

When to Worry about Cough Medicine Abuse

Parents and teens tend to discount cough medicine abuse because it is legal and easy to purchase. That’s a mistake, says Pasierb. "Cough medicine is rarely a kid’s drug of choice…," he says. Once is enough for half of the kids who try it. "The teens who abuse cough medicine more than once are typically engaged in multiple forms of drug abuse," Pasierb tells WebMD.

Chances are, if you see any signs of teen drug or alcohol abuse, your child has moved beyond simple experimentation. "By the time parents see signs, it’s usually the tip of the iceberg," says Manlove. Your child may play it down but if you find empty bottles or drug paraphernalia in his things, there is a strong possibility that not only is he using, he’s losing control of the ability to hide it from you.

The Role and Power of Parents

You cannot control every aspect of your child’s life, especially as she enters the teen years, but you do play an important role. In a survey of more than 2,000 teenagers and 450 parents, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA) found that teens with strong ties to their parents were less likely to use drugs or alcohol.

Respecting your role as your child’s protector might help you work through the privacy question. "Any substance use is a risk to your child’s health," says Pasierb. "If parents are trying to understand the threat of drug or alcohol abuse to their child’s health, and they have a strong suspicion, it makes sense to look into it."

Involve Your Child in the Solution

In the end, what you do if you do find evidence of drug use is more significant than whether you override your teen’s right to privacy. If she could do it over again, Manlove would take a more collaborative approach to her son’s drug abuse. "I wish I had said to him, ‘I’m really worried about what I’m seeing. I want to be here to work with you and find a solution together.’"

Swick recommends just such an approach to the parents she works with. "You don’t want to leave your child feeling isolated and panicked," she says. Whatever you do or say, letting your child know she can lean on you should be a big part of the message. "If possible, your child should feel somewhat relieved to be able to talk to you," Swick says.


June 20, 2011 at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack