Quote of the Week

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ~ William Arthur Ward

Traffic Alert for PSST 12th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, November 23, 2015

Pittsburgh's Parkway East will be closed during the weekend of Dec 4-6 to prepare for the Greenfield Bridge implosion. The outbound/eastbound side of the parkway will be closed from Oakland to Squirrel Hill/Homestead. The inbound/westbound side will be closed from Wilkinsburg/Forest Hills to Oakland. Detours will be posted.

The weekend closure begins at 10 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 4, and runs through 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 6.

This is the weekend that we are holding our 12th annual holiday celebration at the Wilkinsburg location, so if you normally travel the Parkway East to get there, be sure to look for alternate routes and/or allow extra time!!

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PSST 12th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, November 14, 2015

The PSST 12th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration will be held on Saturday, Dec 5, 2015 at our Wilkinsburg meeting.  Invitees include all PSST parents (both current attendees and alumni), in addition to all Wesley Spectrum therapists and Juvenile Probation staff who have been part of the PSST family.  

Please put the date on your calendar, and plan to join us!  Feel free to bring a food item to share - in the past, attendees have brought holiday goodies, pastries, a hot breakfast/brunch item, fruit, crackers & cheese, chips & dips, etc.

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Opioid Overdose Myths
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, November 12, 2015

What should you do when someone overdoses after using opioids (e.g. heroin)?  Sometimes figuring out what NOT to do can be as important as what TO do.  Below are a few of the common myths regarding opioid overdoses.  For more myths, along with explanations of why they are bad ideas, click here.  
  • Let them sleep it off?   Never!
  • Put them in the shower or bath?  No!
  • Once they are breathing again, don't worry, they’ll be OK?   No!

The same website gives the following recommendations for what you SHOULD do if you think that someone is overdosing on opioids.
  • Call 911
  • Give rescue breathing
  • Give Narcan/naloxone, if available
  • Never leave the person – wait for help

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2015 Parent of the Year Speech
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, October 31, 2015

Earlier this month, our own Allegheny County parents of the year were honored at the Juvenile Justice Week awards ceremony in Pittsburgh. It was heart-warming to see them accompanied by their son, as well as by several of their supportive family members.

Click on "Read more . . ." (below) to read their well-received speech and to see more photos from the event. 

My name is Tracey and this is Scott and we are here tonight to humbly accept the award for Allegheny County parents of the year.

When Lloyd Woodward, my son’s probation officer and head of the parenting group that we go to - PSST (parent survival skills training) - told us on a conference call that we had been nominated, we had polar opposite reactions. His was, Oh, no no no no no and I said  “Yes”!.

He said no, because we are surrounded by a team of incredible people; Lloyd, Kathie, Abby, Justin and every parent from our PSST group that laughed, cried, supported, advised and empowered us from our first meeting until tonight.

I said, “yes”! because I am grateful for the gifts that this group has given to us and what we have become thru this program.

With their help, we gained the knowledge, confidence and skills to enable us to learn enough to help our son to become a man that he - and we - can be proud of.

When your child chooses the wrong path, you feel many things: hopelessness, failure, fear, anger and guilt. You look for help and if you are fortunate enough in an unfortunate situation, you are paired with people that rally around you in a way that takes some of those feelings away.

You are no longer alone. If I had been lucky enough to meet these people earlier on, I don’t feel that our situation would’ve spiraled so far out of control for my family, because the knowledge that we have gained has changed us so much.

My son first got into trouble at 15. If I knew then what I know now, he would still be chained in my basement with just enough slack to do laundry. At that point, it was just the two of us living together with his dad living close by. We were newly divorced and couldn’t put our own feelings aside to help our son. We both blamed each other for our “polar opposite” parenting styles. We were so wrong.  Do you know how I now know that? Our son continued to get into more trouble. It became more than “call an attorney” trouble. It became “find a direct line to Jesus trouble”.

Wesley Spectrum, Lloyd Woodward, Michael Santicola, and Judge Tranquili stepped, or should I say, “jumped in”. That is when we started with meetings with Wesley Spectrum and what led us to PSST.

Our son was placed in Shuman (where he learned to value clothes that fit and shoes that cover all of your feet). From there he went to Abraxas (where he learned that whichever way you choose to run in any direction, you will get nowhere). And then to Liberty Station (where he learned that maybe my mom’s cooking isn’t so bad) to Glen Mills schools (where he learned that it can be beneficial to tuck your shirt in and keep your pants pulled up). Please know that this is an attempt at humor of what Jake has learned throughout his multiple placements. You don’t take a tour from Shuman to Glen Mills without making more mistakes though and without learning where you do not want to be.

Time will tell for all of us. Is our son perfect yet? The answer is no. Are we? His parents? Well, we are getting this award. J I do know that he continues to learn and so do we, with every meeting, every text, and every email that we share with “Team Jake”, as Kathie penned us at the very beginning. Team Jake consists of others of whom I have to mention; my sister Pam, who has loved my son as her own since he was born and throughout his time in facilities has provided him with letters, love, support and enough books to fill a library. And my Mother Jean, who has loved him so fiercely and who would never let me give up on my son.

I guess I should also thank my son’s father for what he has become throughout these last few years. He has shown a level of commitment and love to our son that I have not seen duplicated.  It took a lot of work to get us to this point and I am lucky to have him as the one to have walked this tightrope with me and as the father of my children.

I could not have done this without the support of those 3 either.

If I may go back, 5 minutes after that congratulatory call from Lloyd, I called my sister Jennifer to tell her and of course I downplayed “parent of the year” because to me that said that I had done an exemplary job at parenting and that could not be further from the truth, but Jen, who is a social worker in Cleveland, said to me, “Hey, it’s easy to parent a good kid.” And that said to me that sometimes, you just need to do the best that you can with what has been given to you and created by you, and to recognize when what you have previously done that hasn’t worked and that has led to your situation needs to be fixed. Hopefully, this is now the path that we are all on.

In closing, an old African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child”. All of you are my village and I am forever grateful. 

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If you Want to Send a Note . . .
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, October 14, 2015

We’ve been hearing from a number of people who cannot make it to Lloyd’s retirement celebration this coming Saturday, but would like a way to send their personal well-wishes to Lloyd.  If anyone wants to write a note for me to print out & include with a group card for Lloyd, please email to Jenn at psst.jenn.brad@gmail.com by noon on Friday, Oct 16th.

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Lloyd is Retiring!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, October 12, 2015

Even when you know a change has been coming for some time, somehow it’s still a mini-shock when the change actually happens.

Lloyd has decided to retire, and this Saturday will be his last PSST meeting (Greentree).  We invite all PSST parents, current & past, to come to our meeting on Saturday at 9am to wish Lloyd our congratulations & best wishes in this new & exciting stage of his life’s journey.

P.S.  There will be cake, of course!

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PSST Parent of The Year Celebration
Posted by:Brigitte--Monday, October 05, 2015

At Saturday's PSST meeting, Steve and Tammy (their blog names) were celebrated as the 2015 Parents of the Year. They will receive their award on Thursday, October 8 at the Allegheny County Awards Ceremony. The event starts at 6 p.m, and is held at the Family Court House, located at 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh (the Old Allegheny County Jail).

Although divorced, these parents have formed a team who strive to assume a non-enabling approach to parenting. They have attended Parent Survival Skills training regularly to improve parenting skills. Both have progressed with increased communication skills, consistent limit setting, and relationship building.

Both have participated in role-playing designed to help increase skills. Both parents have helped other parents in PSST to improve their parenting skills. Additionally, they have worked and significantly improved their relationship with their son through therapy provided by Wesley Spectrum.

Five months ago Tammy and Steve were proud that their son, after completing both an intensive placement program and a halfway house program, was receiving clean drug tests, doing well in a part-time job, and getting excellent reports from High School. It appeared that their son had turned the corner. Then, Tammy became aware that their son was still participating in serious criminal activity. Working together they confiscated illegal material, took pictures of the evidence and reported him to the Probation Department.

Their son is now undergoing additional treatment at a new placement facility. Both parents continue to work closely with the Probation Department concerning discharge planning and continued relationship building. Both are anxious to have their son returned home and believe that this time he has really turned the corner; however, both also remain cautious that cutting his treatment short now might interfere with the hoped outcome.

From all the PSST parents and professionals, we congratulate Steve and Tammy on a job well done. Although they still have an arduous road to travel with their son, the skills and commitment they have developed at PSST will help them continue to support their son's efforts while remaining strong and unenabling.

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"Parent of the Year" Celebration Meeting
Posted by:Brigitte--Monday, September 28, 2015

Please join us on Saturday, October 3rd at our Eastern Probation Office in Wilkinsburg from 9 - 11 a.m. as we announce this year's Allegheny County Parent of the Year

We all know that each and every one of the parents who regularly attend PSST are real-life Parents of the Year, but only one family can be officially recognized at the annual awards ceremony. The Parent of the Year is selected for their acts of bravery in addressing their child's drug use and/or criminal behavior, demonstrating non-enabling parenting skills, and for being a role model to other parents.

At the PSST meeting, there will be cake, of course, and a very special guest speaker who will talk about his experience in the justice system and his life in recovery. We hope all PSST parents, old and new, will be able to attend. 

The official award will be given at the Family Court House, located at 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh (the Old Allegheny County Jail) on Thursday, October 8. The event starts at 6 p.m. (try to get there at 5:30) and runs about 2 hours. Please come if you can and support our PSST Parent of the Year and to hear their personal story.

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Our Son is in Jail
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Narcotics Anonymous tells us that continued drug use is a sure-fire path to institutions, jail, and/or death.  Our son Dylan is continuing to follow that dangerous journey.
After 4 years of spending a high percentage of his time in juvenile placements, it appeared that Dylan was trying to turn his life around.  He expressed interest in going to college.  He spent 6 months in ¾ housing and accepted his 6-month clean tag with pride.  Unfortunately his 2 separate attempts at college failed, due to drugs (alcohol, marijuana) and poor choices for friends.  And now, his most recent actions have landed him in the county jail for assault and attempted robbery.  We expect that he will serve some prison time for these felony charges.

How are we reacting to Dylan’s actions? 

After our initial shock, we were left with strong feelings of disappointment and sadness that he would make such choices, choices that are so completely foreign to our family’s values and beliefs.  We are so grateful that no one was badly injured or killed.  We still love Dylan, and will help him when he gets out of prison, but only if he commits himself to making serious lifestyle changes.
Are we obsessing over what he did?
We refuse to drive ourselves crazy by obsessing over what he did, why he did it, and how much time he will spend in prison.  As one of our PSST parents said at a recent meeting, we are not distancing ourselves from our son, but instead, we are separating ourselves from his actions and his drama. 

Did we post bail? 

Dylan is angry with us because we are not willing to post bail.  The judge said that he would require Dylan to live at home if he were out on bond, but if Dylan keeps the same circle of friends, as well as his adventurous spirit and lifestyle, it would put significant strain on our family.  We know that following our rules just isn’t part of Dylan’s current playbook.  We believe that he would skip bail to avoid doing prison time (he ran away from juvenile placements twice), leaving us stuck with a huge bill. 

Did we hire a lawyer?

After much deliberation, and talking with many people in our extended support group, we decided to hire a lawyer.  The charges against Dylan are serious felonies.  A public defender would probably do just fine, but we feel more comfortable with a private lawyer of our own choice, who will keep our family’s best interests in mind.  We know that there will be consequences for Dylan’s actions, but we’d like them to be as fair and reasonable as possible.

Are we sorry that Dylan is in jail?  Do we worry ourselves sick every night about his safety? 

No, instead we are grateful that he is safe, because at this time in his life he is a danger to himself and to others.  We know where he is.  He is safer in jail than he was on the streets.  Dylan is fun-loving and generous and intelligent, but he also thinks that he is street-smart and (of course) invincible.  He has no idea how na├»ve and impressionable he really is.  

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And the Countdown Begins . . .
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, September 22, 2015

As part of the annual Allegheny County Juvenile Probation awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday, October 8th, a new Parent(s) of the Year will be announced. Will it be a PSST parent this year?? 

The awards ceremony begins at 6pm, and lasts about 2 hours. It is held at the Family Court House, 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA (the Old Allegheny County Jail) on the second floor. In addition to various awards presentations, there will be a keynote speaker for the event. Speeches from the Parent(s) of the Year and the keynote speaker are always well worth the investment of time. Hope you can make it!

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Relapse is a Part of Recovery
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 09, 2015

If an addict relapses, does that make him/her a failure? 

Science says NO.  In fact, research shows that relapse rates for chronic diseases such as asthma, high blood pressure, and diabetes are very comparable to those for drug/alcohol addiction.  Just as patients with asthma and diabetes relapse, by failing to take prescribed medication or engaging in behaviors that are risky in light of their disease, so do drug addicts.

It is common for addicts to relapse, and it may happen multiple times.  Literature about addiction tells us that the best way for an addict to avoid relapse is to understand what his/her personal triggers are, then try to avoid or minimize those triggers, while reinforcing new recovery-focused behaviors.  Common triggers are emotional stresses (such as frustration or anxiety) and being around people/places/things that remind the addict of using.  If an addict has already relapsed, s/he may need help to accept what happened as a temporary setback, to view it as an opportunity to examine what triggers caused the relapse, and to put renewed emphasis on treatment (such as support group meetings or therapy). 

Click here for an article published in everydayhealth.com that gives excellent advice to family members on how to support the addict who has relapsed.  One of my favorite quotes from this article is Hold addicts accountable for their recovery from the relapse, just as it was important to hold them accountable for their addiction in the first place.

Click here for an article in Psychology Today entitled “Why Relapse isn’t a Sign of Failure” that discusses how drug-related cues can lead to relapse.  The author also explains how being in recovery creates new habits/triggers for recovery, and how Over time the addict subconsciously dissociates the cue from the past reward of using and associates it with the new reward of sobriety.

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YES, We are Meeting on Sept 5th !!
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Give your weekend a powerful start!  We will be OPEN for our regular PSST meeting in Wilkinsburg on Saturday, Sept 5th from 9-11:30am.   There will still be plenty of "weekend" left to enjoy with family & friends . . .

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Truths about Addiction
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, August 22, 2015

Click here for an insightful blog posting about one family’s experience with their son’s heroin addiction, titled “7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn”.  Although the family clearly went through many years of heartbreak, the good news is that their son has been clean and sober for the past 5 years!

Below is a synopsis of the father’s “seven truths”, but I highly recommend that you read the blog posting to get the full effect of his insights.   

Parents Are Enablers
I Cannot Fix This
My Addict Is A Liar
My Addict Is A Criminal
Others Don’t Want Them Around
Life Will Not Be The Same
Homelessness May Be The Path He Chooses

A sample from the author's commentary:
I once wrote a letter to my son about using drugs. I used the analogy of him standing on the railroad tracks and a train (drugs) is blasting down the tracks and blaring its horn but he hears nothing. I told him it was my job to knock him out of the way and take the hit, that’s what fathers do. I understand now, I was wrong. All that would do would leave me dead on the tracks and he would be standing on another set of tracks the next day.

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Apartment Hunting
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My 19-year-old son Dylan is looking for an apartment, and is hoping to share with a friend who is 20.  Both of them have juvenile records - neither has any credit history – and both have spotty work histories at minimum wage jobs.  Neither of them has a car, so they need to be near public transportation.  Dylan plans to get a job, but does not have one yet.  His friend just got a full-time job at a fast-food restaurant.  Both of them drink & get high (marijuana), but seem to be functional – they don’t live with me, thank goodness.

I suspect that many of you have had experience with your own children leasing apartments, and I’d love any tips from you.  I definitely don’t want to co-sign for a 12-month lease.   Do you have suggestions/warnings?  (And wouldn’t you just love to be their landlord?) 

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