Quote of the Week

When I consider helping my son (an addict) with an issue or problem that he has, I make my decision based on my answer to the following question: “Am I enabling my son to use drugs, or am I helping him to get better?” ~ PSST Parent

Thoughts from a Recovering Alcoholic
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, October 16, 2014

"First of all, let me preface this by saying that getting and staying sober has been, by far, the best decision that I’ve ever made. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

But I’m also going to say something else that might not be what other people in recovery want to put out there, but what I have found in my experience to be completely true.

Sometimes, sobriety sucks.

* * * * * * * 

And absolutely, sobriety is a lot of work. But the result of that work is miraculous. I have amazing relationships, I have a life with meaning, I have an active spiritual life. The juice is completely worth the squeeze.

So yea, sometimes sobriety sucks. But you know what? Sometimes LIFE sucks. That’s just the nature of existence – there are ups and downs on the rollercoaster. The point is to make the most of the ride."

For the full post, written by Deanna de Bara, click here.

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Congratulations to our 2014 Parents of the Year !!!
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, October 10, 2014

As many of you already know, the 2014 Allegheny County Parents of the Year are our own Francois and Brigitte. Each year this award goes to the parent(s) who have used the parenting skills of PSST and who also have given back to other parents in a substantial way. 

Congratulations to this year's winners, who brought their family back from the abyss, as they faced their sons' drug use and behavioral health issues, and made some very difficult choices along the way. They have much to be proud of & grateful for, as their family has made significant progress. During their journey, Francois and Brigitte also provided very helpful advice to other parents via Yahoo Groups emails, as well as through their participation in PSST meetings and role plays. 

Since many parents were unable to attend the awards ceremony in Pittsburgh, the text of their acceptance speech is included with this posting. Just click "Read More" at the bottom of this post to read their speech. 

Although Francois and I were singled out as this year’s recipients, this is a shared award among many brave and talented people. The sole reason we are even standing here today is that parents and professionals, many of them from PSST, were there to help us when we most needed it, and we are forever grateful for the guidance, empathy, and encouragement we received. 

We are the parents of three boys. When our oldest son, Pierre, was 16, we started to notice changes in his friends, grades, and attitude. By the time he was 17, we could no longer deny his behavior problems and drug use. He was volatile, stealing from family members, flunking classes and refusing to go to school. The rest of us walked on eggshells around him; he was out of our control. 

We insisted that he go to an outpatient drug program. Unfortunately, the program didn’t make much of a difference in our son’s drug use or behaviors, but it was there that Francois and I discovered a very powerful weapon, the PSST group. We went to our first meeting the next week and were shocked to find that there were so many other parents dealing with similar issues. 

Over a three year period, our son ended up in multiple placements and rehabs, two stints at a halfway house, and two years of probation. He lost his driver’s license, was arrested for possession, could not keep a job. Eventually, he was asked to leave our home because of his drug use. 

At the same time, our youngest son, Serge, who is on the autistic spectrum, was suffering from serious mental health issues and had become physically and verbally abusive. He was hospitalized 6 times in a two-year period and he was also out of our control. Our family was in crisis and falling apart. There were daily battles and power struggles. There were tears, threats, accusations, holes in the walls and broken doors, and plenty of sleepless nights. We were dealing with two out-of-control children and trying to protect our middle son from the chaos. Those were what we fondly call the dark years. 

During the dark years, though, we had a guiding light. We went regularly to PSST meetings and tried to learn the skills we were so lacking. We worked on setting firm boundaries and stopping enabling behaviors. We made tough decisions, like having our son arrested to get him into treatment. We learned from other strong, skillful parents who also made tough choices. We mourned with parents who lost their children to drug overdose. We learned from role plays and from the wisdom of the professionals. Two of the most helpful skills we learned were: 1) that strong parents can still be respectful, kind, and loving even when they hate what their child is doing and 2) parents need to take an honest look at their own behaviors and ask themselves if they are helping their kids or enabling them. All the while we were learning and growing, so were our children. 

This story has a relatively happy ending. It’s not the kind of perfect, happy ending you find in a movie. It’s a real-life happy ending. Today our oldest son is 20 and living on his own. He has been working at the same job for close to a year and is learning that his choices in life come with consequences, both good and bad. Our youngest son, now almost 17, has been home for six months after extensive treatment at a residential placement, and is doing quite well with no physical altercations. We are amazed to think of where we were three years ago and where we are now as a family. 

Our family is working to heal old wounds and resentments, to forgive and to accept, and care for each other again as a family. From the bottom of our heart, we want to thank the parents of PSST who supported us, the judges, probation officers, and police who helped keep our family safe and get our children the treatment they needed, the therapists who worked with all of us, and a special thank you to a very unique group of people: Lloyd Woodward, Val Ketter, Kathie Tagmyer and her team, and Jerry Stradford. Lastly, we thank our boys, Pierre, Jacques, and Serge, who have shown incredible perseverance and a willingness to grow and change. This award is for all of us.

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Training available for Volunteer Parent Coaches
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is looking for parents who might be interested in their volunteer parent coach program. Cathy Taughinbaugh, a certified Parent, Life and Recovery Coach, has been participating in this program for over a year and has found it to be a powerful support system for parents who are struggling with their child's drug or alcohol use. It's a great way to give back and help other parents.

Looking for Experienced Parents to Help Support other Families Facing Drug or Alcohol Problems with their Kids
Have you or someone you know had personal experience with a drug or alcohol abusing child and want to use that experience to help other families facing similar problems? We are looking for 8-10 experienced parents in the New Orleans, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh, PA areas who are interested in getting free, specialized CRAFT ((Community Reinforcement and Family Training) training to learn how to be a volunteer parent coach. Your first-hand experience understanding the impact of drugs and alcohol on a family is an incredibly valuable resource for other families. Wouldn't you have benefited from someone listening and helping you who had walked in your shoes?

Please respond to Cathy Taughinbaugh at contact@treatmenttalk.org immediately to learn more. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the Center for Motivation and Change is offering this CRAFT-Based Peer Support parent coach training in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh, PA this fall. Materials and training are provided at no cost to you. You are not required or expected to have a professional background in substance abuse, just your own personal experience. After the training, you will become part of a national group of parent coaches (Parent Support Network) who help and support the many parents who feel hopeless, alone, and ashamed of their child's disease of addiction.

The trainings in the 4 metro areas will be provided by an experienced local psychologist, a specially trained parent coach 'mentor' and a professional staff member from the Partnership. CRAFT has been proven to be effective in helping families encourage their adolescent or young adult child toward healthy change. This training will also enable you to be a more effective communicator with your own children and family. Together we can learn to support each other. 

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Celebrate with us at this week's Wilkinsburg PSST Meeting!!
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, September 28, 2014

Come celebrate with us! As part of our regular Wilkinsburg PSST meeting on Saturday, October 4th, we will also be announcing the Parent(s) of The Year for Allegheny County. 
Each year this award usually goes to the PSST parent(s) who have used the parenting skills of PSST and who also have given back to the PSST group in a substantial way.
The official award will be presented on Thursday, October 9th at the annual county awards ceremony, which begins at 6 PM (and lasts about 2 hours).  The event is held at the Family Court House, 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA (the Old Allegheny County Jail) on the second floor.  Please consider coming to the county awards ceremony to support our PSST parent(s) receiving this award!

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National Recovery Month
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In its 25th year, Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders. This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” encourages people to openly speak up about mental and substance use disorders and the reality of recovery, and promotes ways individuals can use to recognize behavioral health issues and reach out for help. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

I could not imagine a life without alcohol. It was my everything – until it ripped me apart. ~ Ellie

I am so thankful for each day I am sober and I would never take back anything. I am the person I am today because of my experiences. I am not ashamed to say I am in recovery…for life. ~ Meghan

Helping people find sobriety and community has filled a hole in me that I was trying to fill with alcohol. My life is anything but boring and best of all, it’s fun. ~ Amanda

Today my life isn’t about hiding and getting what I want, it is about helping people, sharing my passion for recovery and hope! ~ Elizabeth

Recovery has given me the chance to become who I was always meant to be, and to help others do the same. ~ Beth

One Day at a Time is used in all 12-step programs and even though it may be an old and dusty bumper sticker slogan, I noticed this really works for me especially when I choose to stay in the moment. ~ Pilar

For more information about National Recovery Month, click here.

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National Drug Take-Back Day: Sept 27, 2014, 10am-2pm
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Saturday, Sept 27, 2014 from 10am-2pm, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will hold its 9th national “Drug Take-Back Day” to enable patients, caregivers and pet owners to properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications at no cost.

Since launching the nationwide Drug Take-Back Day effort in 2010, the DEA has collected more than 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of prescription medications. 
Help to protect our young people (and others) from overdoses and/or accidental ingestion of prescription medications.  Help to keep our water supply safe – don’t flush unwanted medications down the sink or toilet!  

For a searchable list of collection sites nationwide, click here.

The following additional information about the importance of proper disposal of unwanted prescription medications is taken from the Pennsylvania Resources Council websiteThe mission of the PRC is to lead and promote individual and collective actions to preserve Pennsylvania’s environmental resources for each generation.

There are numerous reasons why prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals become unwanted or unneeded. Many people stop taking drugs due to side-effects, their lack of effectiveness, or quicker recovery periods than anticipated. And medications often reach their expiration dates before they are completely used. But people are also being prescribed and buying more drugs, per-person, than ever before in this country.

On a national level, estimates point to upwards of 200 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste being generated each year. Over the past few years, pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors have been detected in growing amounts in surface and drinking water sources around the country. This issue has been increasingly covered in scientific literature and the mainstream media. A series of Associated Press stories brought the issue to the national spotlight in 2008.

In addition, prescription medications have become the drug of choice for teens and other age groups. Each year, tens of thousands of our children and adults die or become critically ill from overdoses and/or accidental ingestion of prescription medications. Citizens, scientists, political leaders, law enforcement, and health care professionals are expressing concern about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals; the old, widely-touted advice to flush these materials is no longer acceptable. But few practical and readily-available solutions currently exist for the safe disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals. As early as 2006, however, some waste management boards and sanitary and wastewater authorities began offering pharmaceutical collection events in states around the country including Maine, Washington, Minnesota, and California among others.

President Obama signed the "Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010" into law on October 12, 2010. The law removes a key barrier to creating statewide programs that allow residents to safely return and dispose of leftover medications. The legislation is intended to support the creation of medication take-back options that reduce prescription drug abuse and reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals getting into the environment. Once the new law is implemented, providers of medication take-back programs will have more options for where and how they set up programs that accept controlled substances, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Ritalin.

Currently, only law enforcement can accept narcotics and other controlled substances from residents. The intent of this federal law is to authorize other convenient community return locations – like pharmacies – for secure disposal of controlled substances. Currently pharmacy take-back programs (the legality of these vary from state–to-state) around the country can only accept the return of over-the-counter medications and prescription medications that are not controlled substances. However, controlled substances make up about 11% of prescription drugs sold.

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Support Groups
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why do I need a support group? 

There is no need to stay isolated and alone with our fears. In fact, it is proven that when we reach out to others and share our experiences, we get stronger. When we are stronger, the addicts in our lives have a better chance of recovery. 

When one person in the family is addicted to drugs and alcohol, we all get sick. And while we cannot control the choices our children make, we can control the choices we make. But how would we know what the choices are, what works and what doesn’t work, if we don’t participate in a forum where we can learn about what has worked for others? ~ Lauren Springer 

For the rest of Lauren’s article, click here

We are able to feel both supported and challenged in a group experience. As the group bonds and trust develops, people feel safer to speak honestly with each other. In groups we can both get and give. Both feel good. The experience of past loss, damage or trauma (whether from our family or from other relationships), may have profoundly affected our self- concept. A group can become a "family" that responds to us very differently, and can give us a corrective experience that impacts us emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. We can also learn that conflict is part of being in relationship, and can be tolerated and worked through. We can't rationalize our negative feelings away, but I believe we can slowly heal as we learn to take in the love and acceptance that emerges in a group. ~ Wendy Fennell 

For the rest of Wendy’s article, click here.

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Free Mental Health Education Program for Parents & Caregivers - Pittsburgh, PA
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 20, 2014

NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania Announces New Class For Parents and Caregivers of Children with Mental Health Disorders

Pittsburgh, Pa. --  NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania is offering, for the first time, the NAMI Basics Education Program for parents and caregivers of children and adolescents with mental health issues. This six-week series of classes will begin in Squirrel Hill on Monday, Sept. 15 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at the Children's Institute of Pittsburgh.

Offered at no charge to participants, the course will cover information about ADHD, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive Compulsive Disorders, Schizophrenia and Substance Use Disorders. 

It will teach coping skills such as handling crisis and relapse; basic information about medical use in the treatment of mental illness in children; listening and communication techniques; problem solving skills; and an overview of the mental health and school systems' roles in treating children with mental health issues.  

The course will be taught by two trained teachers who are also parents of individuals who developed mental illness as children.

"This course provides a meaningful experience for parents and caregivers of children with mental health issues," said Christine Michaels, executive director of NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania. "It introduces them to a community of people with shared life experience, which is equally important as the education and skills training they will receive in the class."

"We hope parents and other caregivers will take advantage of this unique opportunity," Michaels added.  

For more information, contact NAMI at (412) 366-3788 or visit www.namiswpa.org

NAMI Southwestern Pennsylvania provides recovery focused support, education and advocacy to individuals and families affected by mental illness. More information is available at www.namiswpa.org or by calling (412) 366-3788.

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Robin Williams R.I.P.
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, August 16, 2014

Speaking after Robin Williams' recent death, his widow said, “ . . . it is our hope the focus will not be on Robin's death, but on the countless moments of joy and laughter he gave to millions.”

One of Williams’ many contributions was his willingness to speak publicly about his battle with substance abuse.  After 20 years of sobriety, in 2006 he sought treatment for alcoholism.  During an interview with Good Morning America, Williams explained that falling back into alcohol abuse was "very gradual."

"It's the same voice thought that … you're standing at a precipice and you look down, there's a voice and it's a little quiet voice that goes, 'Jump,'" Williams told Diane Sawyer. "The same voice that goes, 'Just one.' … And the idea of just one for someone who has no tolerance for it, that's not the possibility."

When asked why he relapsed, Robin answered: "It's [addiction] — not caused by anything, it's just there … It waits. It lays in wait for the time when you think, 'It's fine now, I'm OK.' Then, the next thing you know, it's not OK. Then you realize, 'Where am I? I didn't realize I was in Cleveland.'"

For the full article, click here.

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Detaching with Love
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, August 11, 2014

So far we are experiencing the ups and downs of Pebbles’ and Dina's attempts with sobriety and 12 step programs. They recently decided to live together with Dina's boyfriend, which we strongly advised against. The results were quickly disastrous and the attempts to pull us in were a struggle to avoid. They are both adults now, although even at age 20, Pebbles is only an adult in legal terms.  Dina's maturity has been curtailed from years of drug abuse so that even at 31, she is just a young teen at best.

We have told them so often how smart they are and how skillful they can be, so we feel we need to give them the dignity to use their skills to work this out, and use the resources available to get through this explosion that has recently occurred. As two addicts who think they can live with 12 step, picking and choosing what they want to use, and with strong emotional ties with each other, their lives have become a head-on collision.


It is so difficult not to run to the scene and pick up the wounded, then take them home to nurse them back to health. But we have done this so many times, only for them to regain their strength and then walk out to begin their dangerous lifestyles again. It is so difficult to know that if nothing changes, change does not occur. So it begins with us to be the change and let them work this out. Having your two children fighting each other is more heartbreaking then when they have their own separate issues; but it is what it is. We just hope we all learn a lesson from this.

We are trying to use our PSST phrases to reply to them when they call to report what the other is up to and to generally complain about each other. We always dreamed of a loving family with sisters that are close and supportive. But right now their addiction is controlling their thoughts and behaviors, and we have to allow this to run its course. We are powerless over what their relationship is and will be. They are angry that we are not getting involved and picking sides. They feel we are being unfair.

Having supportive meetings to go to where there are parents dealing with similar issues, along with the PSST blog, keeps me from isolating and falling into a deep depression. Learning to find other interests to keep me busy does not mean that I have abandoned my daughters, but allows them to live their lives as I live mine.

When I first attended meetings, I was asked what I did for fun. I hated that question. I wasn't having any fun. I was feeling obligated to be in the trenches with my daughters. Slowly I have tried several hobbies and interests until I found what worked for me. After being laid off and having too much time on my hands, I have found a part time job where training took up a lot of my focus.  I have friends through PSST and other groups to share good times at art festivals, movies and baseball games.

The girls survived without my constant focus and I think it is better for all of us that I take better care of myself. Maybe by example they too will do the same, in their own time.


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A Mother's Letter to Her Son
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, August 04, 2014

Kathy Radigan, who is a blogger and published author, as well as the mother of three children, explains why she wrote a letter to her son about underage drinking:
So many parents take it as a foregone conclusion that their kids will engage in any manner of risky behavior . . .  But, I want him to know where I stand on engaging in behaviors that are at best risky and at worst illegal or life threatening.  I never want my son to say that I wasn’t clear about my feelings . . .

Here is a quote from the letter to her son:
Your father and I are so proud of the man you are becoming. We love you so much that we don’t care if you hate us. That’s our gift to you, we are your parents not your friends.

Click here  for the full article.

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Dangers of Liquid Nicotine
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, July 27, 2014

Did you know that liquid nicotine, an e-liquid used in e-cigarettes and personal vaporizers, is a powerful neurotoxin, unregulated by federal authorities?
Click here for an article about liquid nicotine from the New York Times, “Selling a Poison by the Barrel.” 

Here are some excerpts from the article:
Tiny amounts, whether ingested or absorbed through the skin, can cause vomiting and seizures and even be lethal. 
Toxicologists warn that e-liquids pose a significant risk to public health, particularly to children, who may be drawn to their bright colors and fragrant flavorings like cherry, chocolate and bubble gum.  A teaspoon of even highly diluted e-liquid can kill a small child.  

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It's a Long Way Down!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, July 21, 2014

Here's a photo of our own Abby, rappelling down the side of a building as part of the Shatterproof Challenge held in Pittsburgh in July. Shatterproof is an organization whose mission is to provide support for prevention, treatment and recovery associated with drug addiction. 

Abby, you are our hero(ine)!  Wonder if rappelling down a building is listed in the book "101 Natural Highs"?

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101 Natural Highs
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Those of you who have a Kindle might be interested in Cathy Taughinbaugh’s e-book “101 Natural Highs for an Amazing Drug-Free Life”.  It’s normally $2.99, but is currently on sale for $0.99. The sale ends on Saturday, July 19th. Click here for more information about the book.

In the book are reminders and new ideas particularly targeted toward someone in recovery, who needs to fill the hole left by his/her drug or alcohol use.  This book also appears to be useful for those who are looking for ways to "take care of themselves," while dealing with a family member who has a drug or alcohol dependency.

Here are some reviews from Amazon:
"101 Natural Highs is a treasure trove of ideas that bring joy, meaning and enjoyment into anyone's life."
"Engaging, not too long, and a reminder that there is so much a person can do without drugs or alcohol." 

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