Quote of the Week

Serenity is not freedom from the storm but peace amid the storm. ~ Anonymous

How to role-play (originally posted 9-19-13)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, March 01, 2015

There has been some interest in what goes into putting together role-plays. Putting together a role-play at PSST might be easier than you thought. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are leading a parent group and you need to put together a role-play. Usually, role-plays are not planned in advance. The spontaneity of role-plays being planned and run on the spot adds to the excitement.

Remember, parents who attend PSST have the best scenarios. Secondly, our parents are expert at playing their teenager's role. The authenticity is compelling. It's as close to being right there when it happens. We are not just viewing what happens, we are inside it. If it was a hurricane we are the eye. With all this great material and great actors it might be just natural that the role-plays workout. How could it not? Nevertheless, I have some thoughts on this subject to share that can help.

I decided to publish this how to role-play essay on the blog because role-playing is a collaborative effort. Anyone can help direct. Anyone can play. Anyone can learn. Anyone can teach.

1. Trust the group. Listen to the parent’s issue or problems when they share in the first part of the meeting. You will get ideas of what people should do. Hold onto those. Those ideas will guide you in the second part of the meeting. Absent any strong ideas of what the role-play should be, throw it up to the parents to come up with something. Make sure to inject a silent pause and the group will deliver what the group needs. Trusting the group is a very good thing to do if you're at PSST because we simply have the best group of heroes you could assemble.

2. Formulate in your mind what advice you would give BUT DON'T ADVISE! to any parents after hearing them share. It is possible to do more than one role-play so just try to set up in your mind each scenario. Again, think of the advice you would give. Try to picture saying the advice to the parent. You need to do _____ or you need to say _____ to your teen. Of course, you don't say it out loud although before you start the role-play you can say what you're hoping to see happen, which is in a way stating your advice. Advice is cheap. Role-plays aren't. If a picture is worth a thousand words a role-play is a thousand words plus infinity. So, you are now ready to act out, or see other's act out something akin to your advice that you formulated. You are open minded that other's might have as good or even better advice and you want the stage that you set to be available for other's to act out their advice too.

3. Ask if you can use someone's scenario. No one ever refuses. Ask if they want to be in it. Mostly they do; sometimes not.

4. Choose players. The easiest to start one up is to get the parents to play their child. The therapist, or another parent volunteer plays the parent.

5.If it's not you playing the parent; however, you then have to huddle with the chosen one or even share out loud what you are looking to see happen in the role-play. This is optional.

6. Once the role-play starts be in the moment.  No matter what you thought would happen in the role-play, listen to the kid and respond, it does not matter that it was different than what we set up b/c kids always change it anyway; later in comments you can say “that was good even though you changed it a little from what we set up, because that's what kids will do too.”

Keep the following talking points in mind. They are positions or skills that come up repeatedly.

1. Listen carefully to what the teenager is saying. AGREE with part of what the teen says. This more important than active listening. Agreeing with part of what is being said is crucial and you can be CREATIVE here. Be daring, be different, be smart and look the teen in the eye. Really mean it when you agree with whatever PART of what's being said. Don't follow it too closely with the word “but,” which can ruin everything you just said. Really mean it. “I hate my Probation Officer. He’s horrible, mean, nasty and just I think he’s about the most evil person I know.” REPLY “Yes, I have heard things about Mr. Johnson too and most people think he’s one of the toughest if not the toughest PO out there! He’s no one to play with from what I understand.” You are demonstrating agreement skill and you are not going to waste any time arguing if he’s nasty because it’s a red herring. We want to demonstrate avoiding red herrings and joining with the teen for a “partial” agreement. We will usually not agree with the entire thing, e.g., “Yes, he is the worst PO – he really is just a problem for everyone and he should be fired!” At the same time you don't try to make it sound like a partial agreement you make it sound like a real agreement but you "twist" it as much as you need to so that you are comfortable saying it. Sometimes, in group we call that the PSSTwist.

2. I’m NOT comfortable with that! Indicate to parents that saying I'm NOT comfortable is much stronger than saying I'm uncomfortable with that. One is a power-phrase and the other is how you feel when you get sand in your underwear. Not comfortable is how you feel when you are ABOUT TO PUT DOWN A BOUNDARY. “Please don't tell Mr. Johnson that I missed treatment a couple of times; I know he is going to take me to Detention!” Reply: “Yes, you could be in big trouble with Mr. Johnson (agreeing) and I'm glad you brought this issue up (second agreeing) because I have to tell you that I'm Not Comfortable keeping secrets like that from Mr. Johnson. You could tell me other things that I would keep confidential, but your attendance here is not something I feel comfortable hiding from your PO." Notice that I'm glad you brought this up is an easy way to agree and it's help set the stage for the boundary that one is about to set.

3. Keep in mind that HOW you say things is possibly more important than what you say. Strong eye contact, move in closer to make your point, never farther away, use gestures, and to emphasize what you are saying LOWER your voice as though you are sharing a secret. It’s powerful and it models a good thing for parents who have a tendency to yell at teens. In fact, whenever the Parent acting as the teen in the role play raises a voice it's a good opportunity to move in and lower your voice. Like soup and sandwich, move in and lower voice.

4. In a role-play the above process keeps repeating. It’s not like you just partially agree once, you continually keep looking for things to partially agree with because that continually disarms the teen. Still, don't beat around the bush when it’s time to set the boundary..  The I’m not comfortable with that can be said fairly early on in the role-play.  It can be done with an “I’m sorry but I have to tell you" attitude. Kids are trying to manipulate so when they sense that they have hit a wall, they adjust and try from a different angle. The same thing we just did will work just as well on the new angle. First find something in the new angle with which you can partially agree.  Note:  when a partial agreement is not possible, ACTIVE LISTENING done well is sometimes just as good, and then set the boundary. One sure-fire partial agreement is, "You're right about one thing: you and I are not on the same page here. You're seeing elephants and I'm seeing tigers."  It's the "agree to disagree" which can be said as though you both certainly agree with THAT! It's important that you cease any efforts to convince them to see tigers as that leads to debating (see #7).

5. Every once in awhile the angle that the kid is coming from is a step-in-the-right-direction angle and a renegotiation is in order. You can give the kid a win if you maintain your basic boundary and that’s fine.

6. Kids try to wear you down with repetition so sometimes the kid is not coming at you from a different angle or you just feel that the kid is not going to take no for an answer no matter what- that is a time to demonstrate ‘Ask me again.’ It’s important not to jump into this one until it seems obvious that the teen is just going to keep asking until you go crazy, but it comes up a lot because that’s what teenagers do. Then say, “look, I’m starting to see that this is so important to you that you just have to keep on about it. You really need to keep asking and you can't let this one go. Tell you what. Why don’t we just get all the asking if you can ___ out of the way now, so we can relax the rest of the evening. Go ahead. Ask me if you can ___(might be going out somewhere) then the kid asks “Can I go.?” the response is Nevertheless, no you can't go but It’s OK to ask me again.” Soon the kid gets mad and he sees that we are not adjusting this particular boundary and he quits asking. This is very effective and parents love it but point out that you shouldn't jump into it unless you have exhausted other avenues and when you jump into it drop the SARCASM. It ruins it. WE have to sincerely mean it: THEY DO NEED TO KEEP ASKING, and we have to agree that it’s OK to ask. WE are in control because we are challenging them to keep asking now.  They are trying to bug us to death. It’s not fun for the teen if he can't bug us but we need to accept that they really do need to keep asking so that they can see the futility in doing that.

7. Nevertheless and regardless are power words that we want to use and encourage parents to use. It helps parents with the concept that kids want them to debate. Even if you think you have the better argument don't debate. That’s where we can help parents. Just refuse to debate the issues. As therapists and teachers we suffer from this one too. We still hold onto the idea that if we just explain it right to the kid, he will understand and he will agree. No. That doesn't happen. Teen’s already understand. It’s usually not rocket science. They just want their own way. It’s not about logic- it’s about power.

Therapists prefer that the client has an epiphany. "Epiphanies Are Us" would be a good name for outpatient. But really change is the other way around. If we help someone change his own behavior he will change his thinking. Conversely, if we help him change his thinking it really might not help him change his behavior at all. In role-plays we are more teachers than therapists.

In the same vein we want parents to quit trying to use logic with teens. Oh it’s fine when you are having a rare discussion to use logic, presuming that the teen really wants to understand what you are thinking but most of these role-plays happen not when kids are curious but when they want to have their own way.  Once again, it's about power- not logic. Nevertheless and regardless help parents especially when they are just learning these concepts to avoid debating. In a role-play when the players start debating, stop the action. Don't let it go on as if they will eventually see the problem. Stop the action and ask “Who sees what is going on?” Someone will say "They are debating." Give that parent who ways that a big recognition and then agree with the group that avoiding the debate is a very hard thing to do. Time is precious and if we let two players debate we are wasting it.

8. Sometimes after we agree with part of something that the kid says we aren't sure where to go next. It’s fine to say, “I’m not sure what to say.” This is genuine and it’s somewhat complementary to the speaker who just stumped you. Parents feel that they need to always know what to say, instantly, and they do not. Once you admit that you don't know what to say MAGIC happens. Suddenly, you will have an idea. Go with it.

9. Teens will say “Give me one good reason...” This comes up a lot so we can be ready for it and we can help parents be ready.  Ask the group, "The teen is doing what? Right. He is trying to start a debate. IT’s a trap!" Help parents see this as the trap it is and one possible response is:

Teen: Give me one good reason.

Parent: Good, that’s really good.

Teen: what is good?

Parent: It’s good that you are focused on the reasons. I think this is the right question. (We just disarmed him by agreeing that this is a good question!)

Teen: OK, give me one then.

Parent: Well I wish I had as good an answer but here’s the thing. I don't have even one reason that you would think is good. I got nothing.

(When discussion comes up later point out that rather than admitting weakness, this was a real power statement because it operates on a premise that the parent is so powerful he doesn't need a reason. Now we are ready to set up the paradoxical task for the kid. If he persists in pushing you for a reason after you have already told him that you don’t have any reasons that he will think are good ones, then you give him one, he finds it totally unacceptable (hoping you will begin to debate) and now you say:

Parent: See that’s what I mean?

Teen: What?

Parent: You don’t think the reason that I just gave (probably it was I'm not comfortable with that) was a good reason. And you see, no matter what reason I give you (it is now safe to rattle off a bunch of reasons quickly but only as examples of what he won't find acceptable not as an effort to convince him) you won't find any of my reasons very good. I’m sorry but I really have nothing that will help you except that I'm not comfortable with you going out tonight. Period. Stay home, read a book, do your homework, whatever.”

Teen: No I want a better reason than that!

Parent: You're right! You see that you and I could talk about this all night until daybreak, and when the sun finally came up and sunlight poured into this room you would still believe what you believe and I would still believe what I believe. Let’s just save ourselves all of that trouble what do you say? I mean geese we can talk these things to death sometimes but wouldn't you agree that all these long talks don’t help that much?

10. There is anxiety in role-plays. As the teachers we feel like we can't screw up. We will screw up. It’s ok and parents love it when we screw up. Just admit it, they will love you for it, and let them know that maybe you learned something today too, maybe a parent has an idea that that works better than your idea. That’s excellent.

11.It's good to play two parents facing a teen. Sometimes the therapist or teacher is one of the parents. Sometimes you switch seats and roles. If there are two parents demonstrate that talking to each other during the role play is an important power move. The teen is used to tuning out what parents say to directly to him, but he is usually very keep to listen or sometimes to overhear what parents say to each other.

12. It's inevitable that parents will say, "But what happens if he goes out anyway?" That's a good place to stop and ask the parent if they have any way to hold the teen accountable?  Does the teen have a cell phone? Does the teen drive? Does the parent give the teen money?  Often, the parent feels helpless but the teen in question has not been relieved of any of his privileges.  Is there a PO?  Has the parent been honest in keeping the PO up to speed?  This is the place to hit home how important it is before the role-play starts to know what consequence you are likely to use.

Sometimes, the parent has tried all the consequences and nothing has or one can assume will work.  Point out to the group that this teen is clearly out of parental control. A teen who is out of parental control is going to be handled differently than one who is still somewhat within a parent's control. Strategize what steps a parent who is out of control can take. Then the Out Of Control Teen role-play usually goes like this:Parent: I know you are very strong willed.

Teen: So?Parent: You are going to make your own decisions and you're not going to follow our rules here as far as I can see.

Teen: Right, so?

Parent: Well, I just want you to know that we realize that too, and that's why we've taken the steps that we have taken and we want you to hear it from us so that you're not surprised.

Then tell the teens that you have (1) contacted his peers parents to tell them about his drug problem, (2) contacted to ACT 53 to have treatment Court ordered (3) called the PO if there is one, (4) Called the police to press charges of Assault, Theft, or Drug Possession (5) arrange for a drug dog to come through the house regularly (6) taken the teen's door off (7) Put a club on his car (9) Shut off the cell phone or if the child is over 18 perhaps ask them to leave and find another place to live. Or taking other steps but the important first step is to admit that the teen is out of control.    Embrace that because it sets up the radical steps that one will take to try to save an out of control teens life, which are different than taking steps to save a teen who is still somewhat within control.

Also rules I lay down before we start.

1. Anyone either in the role-play or outside of the role-play can call time out and ask a question or have a comment. We can freeze the action. This gives people more confidence. As a teacher you can freeze the action and when you do you might like to say “what’s going on here?” and leave it out there for comments. Then point out if no one has what you wanted them to see.

2. Changing seats is a must. If you change seats not just the role-play characters. So this becomes the mother’s seat, that is the teens. If suddenly you want the one who was playing the mother to play the teen make them get up and change seats. Or if someone watching the role-play has a different idea, say "That sounds interesting can you show us how that would work?"  Then, get up off your chair and offer it to them. t really matters for some reason and also it puts the teacher be it therapist in control. The guy who can tell others where to sit, whether it’s in a role-play, a meeting, a dinner or whatever has the power and we need power if we are to influence them with our ideas.

3. Profanity: When parents what to show us what it’s like dealing with teens they may want to use colorful language. That’s actually good because it lends a air of authenticity; however, it’s not always necessary and if it offends someone in group we need to not do it so ask the group when it comes up or beforehand if anyone would find it offensive. Perhaps some words are OK and some are not. A hell or damn might OK but a you're a bitch or whore is just too much. By asking permission you sometimes find out who’s saying what to whom and that is valuable info as well.

This post is probably a work in progress.  We will add to this post from time to time. Your comments might be important to helping us further define what works for us in role-plays.

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The power of our voice or Another Brick In the Wall
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, February 26, 2015

This is something that we don't talk about too often in group. The role-plays we do at PSST are good for assertiveness and there is power in a person when he simply and yet firmly, with resolution and when appropriate, with steel-in-the-eye, tells you something. Usually this is all about boundaries.

But what about the the other side of the coin? What if there is power in our voice that backfires or becomes counter-productive? This is spelled out in a blog where the blogger is speaking about empathy in his 13 month-old baby. I like what he says here because he becomes aware of the power of his voice.   I also recently I had something happen where I used my voice in a way that backfired and so after you follow this link, come back and I'll share some of my story with you.

OK so you're back. Here's the thing, because of anonymity I don't want to go into detail here about who was my target; however, recently, I flipped out on a family person. Almost immediately after this happened I started to play back the tape. This person already felt bad. This person knew they were wrong. I didn't need to go off like that. Just a quiet disapproval would have been as effective. So, it's not as though I had to prove to them that thy were wrong; this, they already knew. Therefore, the way I reacted was scary and completely unnecessary. Looking back, I made a mistake. It was as though I left the "teaching moment" and I just wanted to punish the person.

How forgiving can we be when we have the edge? I had the edge here. All I had to do was be a bit generous, and that would have been a nice "brick" in the relationship wall. Instead, it was a "Pink Floyd Brick" in the Wall. One more obstacle to a better relationship and one more reason to embitter youth towards us old guys. If we have constructed years and years of "Pink Floyd Bricks," the only way to take those bricks down is the way they went up: one brick at a time! Remember that line in the song, "Teacher! Leave them kids alone."

Babys become children. Children become teenagers and by then it's easier for a teenager to be angry, snide, cocky, unruly, disrespectful, or even scary in their own right. This is preferable to being afraid.

As far as taking the brick down I chose to simply apologize. I was wrong to flip out. I said I was wrong to the whole family. I didn't say it like, "I was wrong, but really it's not all my fault because so and so shouldn't have done what they did." In that case the "but" would have ruined everything. I was just wrong. My family knew why I flipped out. I don't have to mention that. That part was over. Now the last part was that I had to take responsibility for my behavior without any "buts." Maybe I didn't get as much of the brick down as I had put up. I think that's the way of it. Those bricks are much easier to put up than they are to take down.

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How to best motivate your teenager.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, February 21, 2015

Here's something I came across in a book I'm reading; it's not a parenting book or anything like that but this seems to me well done. This is a 12-year old boy talking with his mother:

"Who care's if a Modegan viscount outranks a Vintish sparathain?" I protested. "And who cares if one is 'your grace' and the other is 'my lord.'"

"They care," my mother said firmly. "If you perform for them, you need to conduct yourself with dignity and learn to keep your elbow out of the soup."

"Father doesn't worry about which fork to use and who outranks who," I groused.

My mother frowned, her eyes narrowing.

Who outranks whom," I said grudgingly.

"Your father knows more than he lets on," my mother said. "And what he doesn't know he breezes past due to his considerable charm. That's how he gets by."

She took my chin and turned my face toward her. Her eyes were green with a ring of gold around the pupil. "Do you just want to get by? Or do you want to make me proud?"

There was only one answer to that.

Excerpt from "The Name Of The Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss

click here to be sent to graphic source.
The reason I like this so much is that it shows how a challenge is put on the table. There is no power struggle here. This 12 year-old is a performer in a traveling troupe and he has to learn a lot of things to be part of the performances; usually he is a very fast learner. But these lessons about elaborate manners he isn't interested in learning, and so he tries to use the father to 'split' with the mother. She more or less 'agrees' with him that his father doesn't value these particular lessons, but after agreeing with him about that she proceeds directly to the challenge: "Do you want to get by, or do you want to make me proud?" That's great stuff. We have said in group before that challenge is the best way to motivate people, whether they are teens or no. It works much better than reward and punishment.

There was very good parenting going on in this young man's life from both his parents and he was lucky to be raised by these two extraordinary people. I found it refreshing to read that about a character instead of the very popular fantasy hero who is a bastard, never knew his parents, or an orphan living with nasty relatives in a cupboard under the bed. (Although I've enjoyed those characters a lot too :-) )

Anyway, I look for stuff that highlights what we cover in group and this is my two-cents for today.

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Love is not enough.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, February 21, 2015

This is such a timeless post, that it deserves repeating at least
once each year!    Jenn

(originally published on 4/17/2011, then again on 1/18/14)

Teenagers try to guilt us by accusing us of not loving them. Sometimes we try to debate this one as though it's an exception to the Avoid Debating Rule because we know we love our teenagers and we love them so much it seems like it should be an easy debate to win. It also feels critical that we are able to "get through" to our teenager that, indeed, we do love him.

We are wrong on both counts. First, there is no debate that is easy to win with our teenagers. They either draw or win every debate. Usually we don't even tie. Secondly, it is not critical that we "get through" to them that we love them. The reason is simple. They already know that. They are just trying to make us feel guilty so that they can get more power. And we fall for it.

Teen: You don't love me- I don't think you ever loved me.

Mom: You're right, love is not enough is it?

Teen: What?

Mom: You're right, Honey, Love is Not Enough, is it?

Teen: [Glaring] I said you didn't love me.

Mom: And I agreed with you that Love is not enough. We need to do more than just love you- and you know I was really wrong about that.

Teen: [teens usually become a tad interested if parents admit they were wrong about something] What?

Mom: I thought love WAS enough. But it's not. There's so much more than just loving you we need to do.

Teen: You don't love me anyway, you just want to have me sent away. I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for you!

Mom: Well yes.

Teen: You admit it? You put me here and you're keeping me here!

Mom: You're saying so many things. Yes, we arent' so worried about whether or not you think we love you- we used to be worried about that but we aren't that worried about it anymore.

Teen: [glaring.]

Mom: Love's not enough honey, we are trying to save your life and we know that love isnt' going to do that, so yes, you are also right that we preferred that you come here to Shuman and we didn't want you- don't want you- to get right back out. We want you here.

Teen: How can you do that to your own son?

Mom: It's tough.

Teen: It isn't tough. You're lying. You like it that I'm locked up- that's why you aren't trying to get me out, isn't it?

Mom: Well, you're right about that too- it's easier for us to see you at Shuman than it is for us to watch you hurt yourself with drugs outside of Shuman. You're right.

Teen: I hate they way you talk! Quit doing that psychology thing on me-you're f**** up my head!

Mom: We are saying somethings differently.

Teen: Yeah, a lot of things.

Mom: Yup. I guess it's good that you noticed. We're trying.

Teen: Well stop it! I want you to talk like you used to talk, this is messing me up!

Mom: Your right we used to try to say things the way you wanted us to say them. We were so worried about upsetting you or making you angry. I guess we're learning new ways to say things and you don't like the way we are changing.

Teen: Yeah! So stop it or else I'm going to get really pissed!

Mom: We are just making you mad now. We should stop.

Teen: That's what I'm saying.

Mom: OK, lets take a break- these meetings are hard for everyone. We'll be back when we can.

Teen: Don't come back to see me until you can talk regular.

Mom: You're right, we should take a break, we'll take a few days off and check on you next week. We love you even it doesn't look like it.

Teen: It doesn't!

Mom: Bye [hugs but he resists] Honey I'm trying to give a little LOVE here can you help me out?

Teen: No, don't bother I can't take no more of that kind of love. [glaring]

Mom: Yeah, I guess you can't [mom blows a little kiss and walks out of Shuman.

What's the point to learning new ways to talk to teenagers?

There's not just one answer to that. On the one hand it helps ease the oppositional defiant nature. On the other hand, it helps parents feel less worn out and tired when they are not debating. Ultimately, this helps parents to have firmer boundaries and not allow themselves to be manipulated, which of course translates into less enabling.

For me the largest part of changing the way we talk is that it helps us change the way we think. For example, the whole idea that we have just got to get through to our teen that we love him, and if we can be successful with that, then he will "feel loved" and stop with the drugs, bad judgement, and criminal behavior is just erroneous.  Lack of love or his lack of being able to see that he is loved is not the problem.  He may wish us to see it that way, but that does not make it so.

By seeing past that and by addressing things differently, we come to see how the magician does the trick. We are no longer in awe. We identify the real issue, one of which in this case is his manipulative tactic to make us feel guilty and put us into the I-will-make-it-up-to-you mode where we usually enable and spoil our children.

We could accomplish the same thing in terms of maintaining boundaries without all the agreeing.  It might not be as easy or as effective because not only are our children oppositional, but we are a little bit oppositional too. We love to win the debate. We love to to have the last word. By agreeing with something our teenager says, we surprise our teenager and ourselves. In this way we all start to see the real issues more clearly. Share

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Posted by:Rocco--Saturday, February 07, 2015

This posting was originally published on this blog on Nov 28, 2012.  Its topic seems especially appropriate in light of some of the current issues being faced by PSST parents.   (Re-posted by Jenn)

My son was on the streets, homeless due to his choice to use heroin. My son was under the control of a drug, that if left unchallenged, would kill him. I would awaken and try to calm myself by reciting the “Serenity Prayer”. I prayed to my Higher Power with all my soul to have “The courage to change the things I can...yet I could not change him. I had to begin to “Let go and let God”.

"Letting Go" is Not Neglect (from Addiction Journal - October 28, 2010)

It is often stated, as parents we must hand our children’s recovery back to our children.

That single concept is one that is discussed in every forum, book, or support group I have ever encountered. Yet “letting go”, for most parents, it is the hardest recovery concept to embrace.

Handing an actively using child such an important task can seem “parentally neglectful”. We love our children and want to cure their addiction with every fiber of our soul.

We are told by others that you “Can’t Cure It" yet as newcomers to the battle, we struggle to fix our child. The adages such as the “Three C’s of Addiction” and "Detach with Love" have been used for years for a reason. As a newcomer to addiction, these and other concepts will ask you to change your entire parenting style.

This can be frightening for a generation of parents that have been labeled as “helicopter parents”. For my son to return, I had to “let him go” and risk his death. To me he was “dying on the needle” and I wanted to take my best shot at helping him get healthy again. If he could not get healthy, he would not take my family down with him.

I learned “letting go” was one of the few chances I would have to help him save himself.

I had a cousin fall victim to the disease of addiction. She was taken hostage by drugs when we were young adults. At a time when very few people my age were dabbling in opiates my beautiful cousin struggled. I watched from the sidelines and saw my uncle try to love his daughter out of her issues. Every mistake he made I noted, as there were no internet blogs on what to do with an addicted child back then.

My loving uncle was sailing his ship blindly in a sea of addiction few had experienced at that time in middle class America. Tremendous amounts of money were thrown at my cousin’s problem to no avail. She eventually died from the wounds of her disease, just as my son began the battle with his addiction.

I vowed to learn from the mistakes of my Uncle.

This is not a condemnation of his parenting style. He loved his daughter very much and still mourns her loss every day well into his 80′s. However, from his experience, I learned you can not love your child clean or buy them out of the captivity.

It was the first lesson I learned about addiction before I ever entered the halls of any support group.

Parents often times think death to addiction can be avoided by keeping their “baby” safe at home. The number of children that die in their bedrooms with a heroin needle hanging from their arm is staggering. Allowing your child to use at home does not equate to safety. Home is often used to fuel the addiction as our children sell every item that is not nailed down to feed their demon. The other members of your family deserve a safe haven, one free of the drama and chaos that is always associated with addiction.

The following are a few concepts that I have embraced and truly help me as the parent of an addicted child:

* We must not put a Band-Aid on this life injury called drug abuse. Covering this issue up does not cure it. Deal in the reality of their addiction and learn how to fight back by using the experiences of others that have struggled before you.

* We must allow our children to find recovery on their terms, even though the journey may bring dire consequences to an addict’s life that is already lived in chaos.

* We must not work their recovery harder than they do. Dragging your child to either NA/ AA meetings is futile if they truly do not wish to attend. They have to “want it” and chase the sobriety as hard as they chased the drugging life.

* We must learn to break free of the drama that is symptomatic of addiction. It is a viable option not to take a cell phone call from your distraught child at 3 a.m. and let the child work out the drama at hand.

* We must learn not to love our addicted child to death. Again love alone did not cure my child. Enabling and codependency will deter potential recovery.

I often was told, “Where there is life there is hope” but for me, “There was no hope if I continued to enable my son.”

I remember a call I received on a fall Saturday morning. My son, age 20 at that time, was panicked after being arrested for shooting up in a local park with his friends. He blurted into the phone "Dad it was not my stuff and the cops have me in back of a cruiser. I am telling you it was not my shit…It was my friends! It is not my stuff."

Perhaps it was not my shining moment as a parent but I responded with sarcasm,“Who is this?" At that point I had already detached with love from my son.

He had been cautioned that death or jail would be the final outcome of this addiction. He was going to face the consequences brought to his life by his heroin addiction.

I had learned I would not save him...I could not save him!

I did not know the person in the back of the cruiser. His drug addiction had swallowed him completely. It was my son’s body yet his spirit and being had been swallowed by his addiction. There was, however, a way back.

Waiting for our children to find their way back is the single most difficult experience a parent will face when dealing with a child’s addiction.

Losing my soulmate to cancer did not inflict a pain close to the pain I felt when my son was in the throws of his addiction. Not knowing where your child “resides” after you have opted to remove them from your home in your effort to enforce tough love is an excruciating emotional pain.

I couldn’t breath, I was hyperventilating as I was suddenly awakened from a sleep that was “lousy” at best.

My son was on the streets, homeless due to his choice to use heroin. My son was under the control of a drug, that if left unchallenged, would kill him. I would awaken and try to calm myself by reciting the “Serenity Prayer”. I prayed to my Higher Power with all my soul to have “The courage to change the things I can...yet I could not change him. I had to begin to “Let go and let God”.

The need to detach with love from your child’s addiction is just one challenge parents will ever face in the parent-child interaction surrounding drug addiction.

At the start of my recovery I struggled with the thought had I done things differently my child would not become addicted.

Perhaps one more game of “21” in the backyard or one more Barbie dress up session and our children would not have become trapped into the addiction lifestyle.

There is nothing further from the truth.

Good kids from good families are being swept up in an epidemic of addiction that is gripping the entire country. With their underdeveloped decision-making teen brains they are “fair game” for the deluge of pharmaceuticals prescribed in this country every day. The beer drinking, pot smoking parties are now jumped up to the umpteenth degree as kids snort drugs through a straw. One dance with a crushed Oxycontin and their life will never be the same.

My son told me that like many kids, he began his teen drinking and pot smoking at seventeen years old. The day he snorted his first pharmaceutical he professed his “love” for being high.

I can not understand what it is like to be blind, and I can not understand what is is like to be addicted.

As a non-addict I would naively ask, “Why did you jump from the more mainstream choices such as pot up to heroin?” Without blinking an eye, he replied, “Why take the stairs when you can use the elevator?”

Pot and beers no longer would suffice; there was a new love in his life. Oxycontin, and then, its poor mans sister, Heroin, quickly became his masters. Beyond the drugs, nothing else mattered. Family, friends, education, girls, self-esteem, all fell by the wayside, as his entire life became enslaved to his new love.

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The Detective & the Addiction
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, January 30, 2015

My husband and I enjoy watching crime-solving television shows, and the CBS series Elementary is at the top of our list for its interesting characters.  The detective Sherlock Holmes has been cast as a recovering drug addict, and the writers have used this to add some compelling insights to the program.

Click here if you want to read a Los Angeles Times article about the series and its addiction sub-themes.  Here is a particularly interesting section from the article:

. . . at one point [Sherlock’s partner Watson] sums up not just the truth of recovery, but also why it is so difficult to depict on television. "I'm sorry he's gone but his relapsing doesn't change a thing for you," she says. "You woke up today, you didn't use drugs, just like yesterday. You know what you have to do tomorrow? Wake up and not use drugs. That is just the way it is. That is just the way it's going to be."

And to take down a beloved myth of recovery. Many of us find strength in the days and months and years we have stacked between ourselves and self-destruction, as if they form a wall that, if tall enough or thick enough, cannot be breached. We look to others whose stacks are higher and seem stronger to assure us that this is so.

But there is no wall, no number that will magically hold true any more than there's a "cure." Recovery is a strong but slender thread spun daily. There is only this day without a drink, without a drug, and then, with work and luck, there is the next.

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In Remembrance: Martin Luther King Jr 1929-1968
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, January 18, 2015

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More Recovery Slogans
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, January 09, 2015

Slogans are wisdom written in shorthand.
  • Although we are not responsible for our disease, we are responsible for our recovery.
  • Don’t quit before the miracle happens.
  • Change is a process, not an event.
  • I was sick and tired of being sick and tired.
  • You can only keep what you have by giving it away.
  • Recovery doesn’t happen overnight.
  • Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  • Learn to listen and listen to learn.
  • It is possible to change without improving, but it is impossible to improve without change.
  • An addict cannot be grateful and hateful at the same time.
  • If you expect respect, be the first to show some.
  • Recovery is a journey, not a destination.
  • Most things can be preserved in alcohol; dignity, however, is not one of them.
  • Progress, not perfection
  • Just for Today

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Meeting cancelled. Sorry for last minute notice. Roads are still treacherous and advisory is to stay home this morning
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, January 03, 2015

Type your summary here Type rest of the post here

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Meeting cancelled. Very sorry for late notice. Roads are treacherous
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, January 03, 2015

winter advisory icy roads Type rest of the post here

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Recovery Slogans for the New Year
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, January 01, 2015

Recovery slogans are deeply rooted in the real life experiences of millions of recovering people.   Although often overused and sometimes not fully appreciated, they do not lose their truth.  The following recovery slogans have been found useful in the personal recoveries of many people.  

A good way to start off the new year, by thinking uplifting thoughts!

  • First Things First
  • Live and Let Live
  • Let go and let God
  • Time takes time
  • One day at a time
  • Cultivate an attitude of gratitude
  • Misery is optional
  • God never made no junk
  • Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less
  • Live life on life’s terms.
  • You can’t think your way into a new way of living . . . you have to live your way into a new way of thinking.
  • The key to freedom is in the Steps
  • If you don't want to slip, stay away from slippery places
  • If you do what you always did, you'll get what you always got.
  • If you sit in the barber's chair long enough, you'll eventually get a haircut.
  • Resentment is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.
  • HALT = don’t get to Hungry, Angry Lonely, Tired
  • Your worth should never depend on another person’s opinion

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Well-Deserved Recognition!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, December 22, 2014

The PA Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission recognized the Allegheny County Drug & Alcohol Unit with an award for the county's court-operated program of the year!  We applaud the group for their services to the community, and personally appreciate all they have done for our families.

Our own Val & Lloyd are in the center of this photo.

Congratulations to all!

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A bakers-dozen to keep in mind before taking your teenager on a home pass
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, December 09, 2014

How to Search a Teen's Room
(originally published Thursday, March 24, 2011)

A bakers-dozen to keep in mind before taking your teenager on a home pass from an inpatient drug treatment program.

1. Friends: Home passes are not to spend with friends. They are for family. Make that clear before you start the home pass. If your teenager has a problem with that then don't take him on the home pass. Some institutions make this clear to parents and some do not. This is a chance to flex some parent-muscle and demonstrate that things are going to be different from now on. If your teenager won’t commit to making this a family-only pass then postpone it until he is ready to make that commitment. This is a powerful way to send him the message that he is not in charge anymore.

2. Home passes are triggers for teens. Supervise your teenager every minute or as close to that as you can: Consider that some teenagers are going to get high on home passes and some will even smuggle drugs back into the placement. One girl that I used to work with went was on a home pass from Abraxas. She went out to get the mail. Unknown to her parents, she had already arranged with a friend to have some Heroin dropped off in the mail box. She went back to Abraxas high, smuggled heroin into Abraxas and got busted. The Mom was shocked. "I was with her every minute." Going out to the mail box has happened on other cases as well. Ask yourself this, “My teenager never used to want to go out to get the mail- wonder why he wants to do it this time?” Don't underestimate your teen. A home pass is a big relapse trigger.

Some institutions drug test after home passes and some only do it if it is requested by the PO or by the parent. Request one.

3. Check your teenager’s bedroom and other areas of the home with a fine tooth comb before you bring him back home: Often this is when parents find drugs and money. Not only drugs but money should be confiscated because it was probably drug dealing money. Sometimes they hide things in the basement too. If you can arrange with your local police to do bring a drug dog into your house that is a huge help. You might be surprised even if the dog doesn’t find anything he might “pause” at certain regular hiding places. Now you know where your teenager used to hide drugs.

Especially, if your pass is rather short and your teenager insists that you bring him back home even if for only a brief time, perhaps because he is home sick, be suspicious. Be very suspicious.

4. Take him to a 12-step meeting: Choose a meeting labeled "Open." This means that non-addicts (probably that describes you) are also allowed in the meeting. Go into the meeting with him but if he chooses a discussion group then let him enter that himself. Be there when he comes out of the discussion group. Ask him what he liked about the meeting. Try to get him to chat about his experience. See what your teens reaction is towards the meeting in general because this is a good way to get a read on how serious your teen is about his recovery.

5. Don't allow your teen to be in charge of the home pass and this starts with written expectations: Show your teenager that you are not afraid to assume some leadership. You don't have to go the mall and walk around aimlessly. That is where he will run into peers. Anytime you suspect that your teenager wants to go to a certain place because he will run into peers, don't agree to go.

In fact you don't have to listen to loud music in the car unless you really like that kind of thing. Who is really in charge? If your teenager insists that you do what he wants because he has been cooped up in a rehab and it's only fair tell him he doesn't have to come on the home pass. Once again, it's time to show who is in charge. If you allow your teenager to be the one in charge on the home pass he has every reason to think that once he is released back home he will be in charge then too.

Write down all the rules of the home pass and review them with your teenager and his counselor before you begin the home pass. If your teenager balks at your rules then postpone the home pass. The very act of postponing the pass will send a strong message to your teenager that he is not in charge of you anymore.

6. Decide whether or not you are going to let your teenager smoke cigarettes on the home pass and stick to your decision. This is a values thing. For example, your teenager is not allowed to smoke cigarettes in the institution where he is placed (unless he is in an adult rehab or over 18 and placed in a halfway house); therefore, don't allow him to smoke when he is off grounds because he is still a resident of that institution and he should continue to follow the rules. This is often a big point of contention. It is another place that parents can flex some parent-muscle.

Exceptions to this smoking rule might be if one of his family smoke and plan to smoke in front of him. That might be cruel. Also, if he is 18 or over, the placement might not care if he smokes on his home pass. Check with his counselor and see how the institution views this before you decide.

If it has been bothering you that your teenager smokes cigarettes, especially if he is not old enough to purchase them himself, then this is not the time to go soft and buy him a pack. Send him a message that says, "I don't approve and I will not enable you to smoke. Don't smoke on the home pass and if that is going to be a too difficult rule for you to follow, then don't take the home pass- just stay here in the placement where you can follow the rules."

7. Don't try to make every moment a teachable moment: Your teen gets plenty of that in the placement. Give him a break. Relax. Try to have a little fun. It's OK if you do something that he likes to do, like a movie or eating out at his favorite place. This might sound like a contradiction to #5, the "don't let your teen be in charge" but it's not. You are in charge and you should certainly plan to do some things that your teenager likes to do but, once again, if it looks like he is trying to use that to hook up with old friends or if they think they can torture you with some sort of music in the car that you hate- that's a different story!

8. Consider the music your teenager is listening to on the home pass- does it have a negative message? Then don't permit it. Confiscate it. At an outpatient drug treatment program teenagers formed small groups and were asked to come up with relapse triggers. While they all came up with somewhat different lists, one item that was on every list was music. Music generates powerful memories and emotions, which can lead to relapse. If the message of the music is pro-drug abuse then it is the last thing to which your teenager in recovery needs to be exposed. It’s also another chance for a parent to send a powerful message about who is in charge and by so doing flex some parent-muscle.

9. Don't be afraid to make your teenager angry. This is the time to take the bull by the horns. If your teen can't handle a bit of supervision, and he flips out, then you carry that information back to the counselor. Now you've generated some therapeutic grist for the therapy mill. In other words, now the therapist has something important to discuss with your teenager. Likewise, if your teen decides not to go on the home pass, then the therapist can raise his eyebrows and pay attention to the fact that your teen doesn't even want to go off grounds unless he can call the shots. Oops, that doesn't sound like someone who is ready for release, does it?

Some teenagers assume that they can treat their parents disrespectfully on a home pass. Stop that behavior if you can and report that information back to his counselor following the home pass. For example, sometimes it happens in the car right after the parent picks up the teenager. It might involve yelling, screaming, name-calling, or using an inappropriate tone of voice. Stop the vehicle. Don’t start again until there is an understanding that you are NOT comfortable driving the car with that kind of behavior going on. Consider returning your teenager back the institution early if you cannot trust that they will conduct themselves appropriately.

10. Don't keep secrets.  If your teenager asks you not to tell his therapist that he has done something, e.g., smoked, saw a friend, has a fight with you, ran off without supervision, failed to attend a 12-step meeting, or just about anything else that he thought it important enough to ask you not to report on- DON'T do it. Secrets keep us sick and, once again, if you keep secrets on home passes, he has every right to expect you to keep secrets once he is released back home. This is where he will try to guilt you. "Awe you're going to ruin everything! Just when I worked so hard! You don't want me to come home at all, do you?” Teenagers put a guilt trip on parents in order to get their own way. Maybe that worked before he went away to placement. Now it’s time to show him that doesn't work anymore.

Sometimes it seems like keeping a secret will help you and your teenager to become closer. Perhaps. However, it is comes with a price to high to pay, e.g., you won’t be the one in charge anymore. Instead you’ll be a co-conspirator. Ask yourself if your teen needs a co-conspirator or a parent willing to be the unpopular adult in charge? Harry Truman is quoted as saying, “The buck stops here!” The secrets should stop here too because they only hurt your teenager and your relationship with him in the long run.

11. Teenagers sometimes engage in sex. Make sure it isn't happening on your watch. I once had a girl return to placement after a home pass and she told the staff that thought she was pregnant. She wasn't (phew) but it brought the whole matter up of what she was doing on her home pass. Her mother said that she knew her boyfriend didn't use drugs and she thought it would be nice to give the couple some alone time. Not! Her pass was deemed unsuccessful and her mother, who had assured everyone that she supervised her daughter 100 percent of the time, was embarrassed.

12. Put your big ears on. While you don't want to allow your teenager to be "in charge" of the home pass, neither do you want to be in charge of what he is saying or what he is feeling. Try listening closely and rephrasing what it is that you are hearing so that your teenager can hear what he is saying. This is a chance for you to get a good look into what your teenager is thinking and that kind of intel is invaluable for the entire team that is working with your teenager. If you come off the home pass with new information then that home pass was probably worthwhile.

Be in charge of the comings, goings, tasks, and activities performed on the home pass. Don’t try to be in charge of everything your teenager says or thinks. That will backfire.

A good phrase to remember is this: "Tell me about that." Follow that up by actually listening. Caution: The more you listen the more you may wish to debate. Don't debate with your teenager. Let your teen know before you start the home pass that you are not interested in debating. Listening is not debating. Following the rules is not debating. You can stick to the rules, listen to your teenager and then follow that up with "I'm glad you told me your side of that. Yes, you make a good argument but you know you have always been able to make a good argument. This home pass is chance to show us that you can follow the rules, so we are going to stick to the contract that we have prepared and that we all have agreed."

13. Give some positive feedback to your teenager if you find that he is acting more grownup. Sometimes the behavior on a home pass is so nice that you wonder who this teenager is and what have they done with your real teenager! That’s great. Mention it. Tell your teenager that you see big changes in him. Label his behavior “adult.” Tell them that you respect all the hard work that he has done in placement and really like the changes he has made.

Summary: Teenagers use guilt, intimidation and lying to vie for power. If you want be the one in charge of your teenager don’t wait until he or she is released from the institution. Start being in charge on off grounds passes and home passes. Let your teen find out that you are not as easily manipulated anymore. Let him know that the buck stops here.

Other home pass posts:

Home for the Holidays by Rocco and Sally

Scoring the Home Pass by Lloyd

Rocco's comment below suggested Where's Wendell's/ Wendy's stuff post.

or just put "home pass" in our search window in the upper right hand corner of this blog.

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Don't beat yourself up
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, December 09, 2014

This came up at group last Saturday. I just want to post this link.  In general, this approach works well with complainers because, when we complain about everyone else, underneath this we are upset with ourselves.

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