Quote of the Week

If you are not willing to change, then don’t expect your life to. ~ Author Unknown

Driving while High/Stoned/Drunk
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, May 25, 2015

What if your child is regularly high, stoned, or drunk - do you let him/her drive your car?  What if s/he needs to drive to get to work?  What if the car technically belongs to him/her?

Click here for a blog posting from a parent who believes in setting firm boundaries, and has found a solution to these problems that works for him.

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A Dose of Reality (aka The Two-Headed Beast) - written by Sally
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Warning: Your Child’s Addiction May Be Fatal       
FATAL means he/she could die and you could live the rest of your life dealing with that fact. This warning comes to you from a parent who knows and simply wants you to understand how serious drug addiction is.


It has been almost three years now since we got that horrific phone call and learned that Cisco had died.

Life goes on. Our family is doing well and even prospering. Frodo and Fiona have two beautiful daughters!  We eat, we sleep, we travel. We are both working full-time, and I still spend my free time with knitting needles clicking away. Some days are better than others.

Today my heart is heavy. Just as Cisco had triggers that instigated his drug use, we have triggers that make us grieve. It might be the photos of Cisco that I discovered recently on a flash drive or maybe it’s because his 23rd birthday is coming up soon. Whatever the reason, sometimes the gap that his death left on our hearts becomes unbearably large.

Yoga helps me find peace. My faith and prayers bring me hope. Friends and family sustain me. However, the thing that keeps me going is the hate that I have for drug addiction.

I think of addiction as an evil, two-headed beast with two brains that keeps outsmarting itself.  I firmly stand square-shouldered facing this monstrosity, I look into its red, piercing eyes and I say to it:

“Cisco convinced some of his friends to stay clear of you, you vile and pestilent creature. However, you were able to get a stronghold on Cisco, even though he fought you off most gallantly. For Cisco’s sake I will not let you ruin me. I will live well and survive. I will tell as many people as I can about your evil ways. I will do my best to take you down.”

I take my eyes off this creature now. I slowly and purposefully walk away.

This evil thing called addiction can be defeated. 

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More on Enabling (Not!)
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Continuing with the theme of not enabling . . . click here for a post written by Raychelle Lohmann, an author and certified counselor.  The following quotes are from her article:

Though well-intentioned, enabling can be one of the most destructive things someone can do when they try to help an addict.

Here are some common examples of how parents enable their child’s substance abuse:
·       Lending money (which winds up being used to support the drug habit)
·       Paying off debts
·       Providing transportation to and from places
·       Making excuses for your child’s drug influenced erratic behavior

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Super Not Enabler
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, May 08, 2015

This is a theme at all our meetings. Indeed, with drug and alcohol addiction enabling and not enabling is a key concept. How do I know if I'm enabling? The answer is that if the help you are giving your teenager helps to enable him to continue his addictive lifestyle, then it's the kind of enabling that we want to avoid. On the other hand, if it's helping the teen but not enabling him to continue his addictive lifestyle, then while it might enabling something it's not enabling the addiction and it's not such a big deal. It might even be helping.  It might help to support a drug-free lifestyle.

Sometimes in group we talk about doing some enabling without expecting that it could help the teenager but doing it because it makes us feel better. "We paid for his attorney, but we did it for us really, so that we would feel better we didn't do it for him." OK, that is a good first step to address enabling; however, if whatever help we are giving enables the addictive lifestyle it doesn't matter about the intentions. It is not enough to assume that you know it won't help but you feel better giving aid.

There comes a time; however, when parents stop the enabling of anything that might further the addictive lifestyle and it is this non-enabling approach that helps the parent feel better. When you know you've pretty much done all you can and now it's up to the teenager, you are in a good place.

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Preventing Opioid Overdose with Naloxone
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, April 26, 2015

Unintentional drug overdose is now considered to be a leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Administering naloxone hydrochloride (“naloxone”) can reverse an opioid overdose and prevent these unintentional deaths. 

Naloxone is classified by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a prescription drug, therefore there are laws that govern both how it may be administered and by whom.  In general, each state creates its own laws about who can prescribe drugs, as well as what the standards and processes are for prescriptions.  In 2013-2014 alone, 20 states passed laws governing naloxone access.  States may allow legal immunities for both health care professionals and lay persons who administer the drug.  Click here for the Drug Policy Alliance’s map showing which states have naloxone access laws.

Pennsylvania is one of the states with a naloxone access law. Opioid Overdose Reversal ACT 139 allows first responders (law enforcement, fire fighters, EMS), or other organizations acting at the direction of a health care professional authorized to prescribe naloxone, to administer the drug to individuals experiencing an opioid overdose.  The law also provides immunity from prosecution for those responding to and reporting overdoses. Additionally, individuals such as friends or family members in a position to assist a person at risk of experiencing an opioid related overdose may receive a prescription for naloxone.

Click here for more information about Pennsylvania’s new law on the Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) website.   Click on the red “Save a Life” banner in the middle of the page.  One of the links on this page provides a list of Pennsylvania pharmacy locations carrying naloxone; this list is expected to grow as the demand for the medication increases.  In addition, some pharmacies will fill prescriptions by mail.

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More about Boundaries - or - Mom, Can I Borrow Your Car?
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, April 20, 2015

Lloyd originally created this post on March 14, 2012.  I've made a few tweaks to the original to modify the roleplay topic slightly, but the messages remain the same.   Jenn 

We have talked at PSST many times about the "Agree with One or Two Things First" technique.  This is the technique where you look for things to agree on when you are discussing a contentious topic with your teenager, instead of automatically looking for the reasons why your teen’s reasons, expectations or demands are irrational (or even downright ridiculous).  Finding a way to agree with our teenagers can help to defuse a potentially explosive situation, reinforce our boundaries, and model adult behavior, while taking steps to build greater intimacy with our teens.

A PSST mother once offered me the best reason why more parents don’t adopt this technique more readily.  "I want to be genuine. This doesn't feel genuine."

That's right. This approach will not feel genuine. In fact, let's face it – it feels phony. I don't have a good response for that one.

Any approach that is new will feel phony. The only thing that is going to feel genuine is the same old approach (and I might add, the same old approach that has NOT been working). Add to that the fact that the "Agree with One or Two Things First" technique purposely leaves some things out of the conversation until later, which of course adds to the feeling of being phony.

Keep these 3 things in mind: 

1. Keep to your boundaries. Don't mislead, don't over-agree. Just agree with a "slice" of what your teenager is saying and don't offer too much agreement if it would take you outside of your comfort zone.

For example, if he is excited about getting his license at age 18, and is pressuring you about letting him drive your car, agree that being 18 is a BIG deal. Agree that driving is really fun.  Agree that having a license and not having a car to drive would be really frustrating. Agree – if you believe it – that he will eventually become a good driver

If you're not sure about that last one, then don't offer it. Be careful however not to agree that he needs to have access to a car as part of growing up, because unless you agree with that, it's not only phony but it's misleading and deceitful.

2. When you are pressured to give an answer – give one. That is the perfect time to not pull any punches. If you stick to your boundaries, what could be more genuine?

Teen: So, you're saying that as soon as I get my license, you’ll let me drive your car?

Mom: Well, I'm not comfortable saying that.

Teen: Well that's what you and Dad have been promising me for months!

Mom: We have?

Teen: Yeah, you said that I could get my license, and then I could drive your car.

Mom: You are right, we did agree with you that once you turned 18, you could get your driver’s license on your own.  We knew that you wouldn’t even need any help from us to do that.

Teen: So, that means you'll let me drive your car, right?  After all, what good is a license if I can’t even drive?

Mom: Yes, I see you're point and it's a good one – if I agreed with you that you could get your license when you turned 18, then why wouldn't I want to let you drive my car?

Teen: Yeah, exactly!

Mom: I'm sorry. I think I misled you. But I'm really happy that you are bringing this up so we can talk about it. I think it's important for me to be clear with you about this.

Teen: OK? So? What? Tell me already!

Mom: I have a little problem with this part.

Teen: What?

Mom: You're not going to like my answer because it's not the answer that you are looking for, and we know that it's a big challenge for you to hear an answer that you don't like. A huge challenge especially because this driving thing is going to be so important for you.

Teen: I knew it. You were just lying! You were never planning to let me drive your car at all. There's no sense in us talking about this anymore.

Mom: Yeah, this is going to be a tough one for you. Let's talk about it later - good idea.

Teen: I already know what you're going to say anyway.

Mom: Yes, I've noticed that.

Teen: Noticed what?

Mom: You're very good at predicting what your dad and I are going to say about things. You know us really well and even when we don't want to come right out and say something, maybe because we fear that it will upset you- you still do an excellent job of "reading" us.

Teen: See, I knew you wouldn't let me drive your car.

Mom: You're right.  And you probably know exactly why we feel that way too.  I bet none of our reasons would surprise you.

In summary, try to think of the "not genuine" issue as being more an issue of timing. You're just giving him the same information while you continue to agree with a lot of the stuff that he is saying- but your boundary is that you are Not Comfortable with him driving your car just because he got his license, and that does not change.

3. Buy some time for yourself. You don't have to know exactly what to say as soon as your teen pressures you.

Teen: So, I can drive your car as soon as I get my license, right?

Mom: Wow! Good question. I'm not sure what to say about that one.

Teen: What does that mean?

Mom: Well, you just surprised with that question, that's all.

Teen: Why? I’ve been telling you for months, that as soon as I turned 18, I was going to get my driver’s license.  So of course I need a car to drive!

Mom: I wasn't even thinking of it that way – I mean with you disappearing from our house for days at a time, being truant from school on a regular basis, and not testing clean on your drug tests, I just didn't even think that was something you’d be expecting.

Teen: Well, that’s ridiculous!  Why would I even get a license if I can’t drive your car?

Mom: Yeah, well that’s a good question.

Teen (changing tactics): I think it would be good for me to have a car to drive.

Mom: How's that?

Teen: Well, if I have something to look forward to, like driving your car, I could probably be more responsible and, you know, I could stay off drugs better if thought you'd take the car off me anytime I tested dirty.

Mom: Oh, so what you're saying is that if you had a car to drive, that would be the answer to a lot of the troubles we've been having?

Teen: Exactly. So can I?

Mom: Oh I really don't know about all that, but what you say is interesting and I have to tell you son, I have never looked at it that way before.

Teen: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, I've only thought of you driving my car as another problem-area; I've never ever thought of you having a car as a solution to a problem.

Teen: You can count on me!  I’ll go to school every day.  I’ll stick around on weekends.  And I will definitely stop using drugs.

Mom: I’m so glad you understand the behavior that we expect from you.

Teen: So, I can do it then, right?

Mom: You want an answer right now on that?

Teen: Yeah.

Mom: Just like that?

Teen: Just like that. I'm tired of having to wait all the time for answers.

Mom: It's true. It's seems like most of the time all the adults in your life are saying, "I'll get back to you on that one." That's got to be frustrating.

Teen: It is. So, just tell me already, before I get really mad.

Mom: OK, well [moving in closer and lowering her voice.] As much as I like your courage for even suggesting that driving my car could be an answer to our problems, I'd have to say it would be a cold day in hell before I let you drive my car anytime soon. Ok? That straight up enough for you?

Teen: Why not? Give me one good reason!

Mom: Ok. But you are so good at reading us you probably know what I'm going to say.

Teen: You're going to say I have to prove that I'm responsible first before you trust me with all that responsibility of driving your car.

Mom: Wow!

Teen: Wow what?

Mom: You just said it better than I could. Nice going. You just surprised me again!

Teen: I'm not stupid.

Mom: I completely agree, Son.  You are not stupid.  You know exactly what we expect from you.

Teen (storming off): There’s no use even talking to you!

Note: All this started because Mom said, "I'm not sure what to say." It's OK to not know what to say all the time and while we parents feel that way a lot, we rarely say it to our teenagers. Now, ask yourself, what could be more genuine? Also, it's a paradoxical thing that as soon as you say, "I'm not sure what to say about that" a response starts forming in your brain and soon you have lots to say about that!

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Two Kinds of Boundaries
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, April 20, 2015

Click here to go to origin of graphic
We discussed this in our group yesterday. This post attempts to differentiate between the two types of boundaries with consequences.

The first boundary is the type that states "if you do blah blah blah, we will respond with bleh bleh bleh." An example would be:

Mom: If you can't keep your car legal, insurance paid, registration renewed etc., we will take your car keys and put a club on the steering wheel of your car.

Teen: But how will I get to work?

Mom: Well, yeah, this is going to be a major inconvenience for you. I'm not sure what your back up plan for getting to work would look like.

Let's call the first type a Conditional Boundary because the consequences of the parent are conditional on the teen violating his home contract. This approach can work well as long as you have sufficient credibility with your teenager so that he believes you mean what you say. If however, you have not followed through with boundaries before or if your teen has simply acquired a great deal of power, then you may be better off with the second type of boundary.

The second type makes more sense when you're teenager isn't likely to take you very seriously. Perhaps he has you walking on eggs already so you set a boundary that involves some action that shows rather than states that you mean business.

Mom: Your father and I have have to let you know about some things, and you're not going to like this at all.

Teen: Forget it. I'm not talking. Get out here. I'm busy.

Mom: This is the living room and I live here.

Teen: I don't care. I'm watching South Park. I don't have time for this crap.

Mom: We are not comfortable letting you use the car right now, and so we used our key to put a club on the steering wheel.

Teen: What? You can't do that! [raising voice]. I'll f&^% up your car if you do that to mine!

Mom: Hold on, [using the universal sign for stop by placing her hand open palm up in the air.] We expected that you're going to be really angry about all this and we asked Officer Brown to come over the house to help explain some things to you.

Teen: What??? I'm not talking to him! He can't come in here like this; I haven't done anything wrong!

Mom: Well, you're right, you haven't acted on your threat to damage our car but he's here because I invited him. [Mom raises voice and yells into the hallway] Come on in Officer Brown.

Teen: [appears to be torn between wanting to flee and not wanting to miss South Park]

Officer Brown: Hi Jamie, how are you?

Teen: [changes demeanor entirely to one more polite] Hi Officer Brown I haven't done anything wrong. Can you tell my parents please that they can't just put a club on my steering wheel? That's car theft, right?

Officer Brown: Yes, it would be car theft if your parents took your car without intention to return it to you, and it would be Unauthorized Use if they just took your car for a ride without your permission. That's not what's going on here. Jamie, I checked your car out and I don't see a current sticker on your license plate or a current inspection sticker on your windshield. You're looking at a pretty substantial fine if you get caught.

Teen: I know, I know already. I take my chances.

Mom: Yes, and we are taking our chances too. Officer Brown, Jamie just said that he would f&^% up our car if we don't take the Club off of his steering wheel.

Officer Brown: Oh Ohh. That's a threat to commit a crime. Jamie, did you mean it when you said that to your mother?

Teen: I was just mad. I didn't mean it.

Officer Brown: I'm glad to hear that Jamie because now that you and your mother have gone on record about this threat, if anything happens to their car while it sits at home you're going to be number one suspect and I might have to come back and charge you with Criminal Mischief, 18 Pa. 3304. If the damage is over 5,000.00 it is a Felony of the 3rd Degree and it is a Misdemeanor of the 2nd Degree if the damage is over 1,000.00. It's a Misdemeanor of the 3rd Degree if the damage is over 150.00. For example, a new paint job if required to fix the damage can easily put the charge at over 1000.00.

Teen: Tell them they can't put a club on my damn car.

Officer Brown: Parents have not just a right, but a responsibility to take action to keep their children safe and also disciplined. But if you want a hearing on this, I'm in court this Monday before Magistrate Smith, and I'm sure you can come down and talk to him about whether you parents have the right to stop you from driving your car and violating the law. You can argue that it's your right to violate the law and drive your illegal car.

Teen: Oh yeah, sure that makes sense! [rich with sarcasm and rolling of the eyes].

Officer Brown: One last thing Jame; your parents have told me about how you get mad and put holes in the walls. They get scared when this happens of course and you threaten to kill them and say all kinds of stuff that I'm sure you don't mean. That would be Criminal Mischief and we already talked about that, but it's also Terroristic Threats. 18 2706. Under subsection (a) [Officer Brown is reading this] this constitutes a misdemeanor of the first degree unless the threat causes the occupants of the building, place of assembly or facility of public transportation to be diverted from their normal or customary operations, in which case the offense constitutes a felony of the third degree. Also, Terroristic Threats is a charge to which it is incumbent upon the officer to request admission to Shuman Center if he believes that there is a real threat and that somebody might get hurt. I just thought you should know that.

Teen: I'm not going to cause any trouble. But I need to get to work. Mom, can't you loan me the money to get my car inspected and my insurance reinstated?

Mom: Jamie, if you can pass a urine screen and begin to treat dad and I with respect we will consider helping you out. If not, then no, we don't even want you driving.

Officer Brown: You mean you suspect that Jamie is using illegal substances?

Teen: That's it. I'm moving out.

Officer Brown: [looking at mom] At your request Ma'am, I can come back with the drug dog and we can see what Rover thinks of Jamie's' room.

[Jamie walks out in a huff towards his room]

Let's call this second type of boundary, a Peremptory Boundary because it preempts some type of trouble and shows the teenager that you mean business in addition to telling him that you mean business. In a way it can be seen as the act of a desperate parent who knows that he has lost a great deal of power.

On paper Conditional might be better than Peremptory. It is generally good to discuss consequences ahead of time. It is certainly a good thing to discuss expectations ahead of time. However, when a teenager has taken so much power that he is calling all the shots, then Peremptory makes more sense because your teenager isn't going to believe you when you use Conditional anyway.

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Obsessions and Addiction
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, April 17, 2015

In our most recent PSST parents' support group meeting, we talked about how easy it is to let our fears and worries about our addicted children consume us, dominating our thoughts and conversations to the point that we are driving ourselves (and possibly our partners) crazy with fear and worry. One of the parents said that she is actively working on taking back her own life by “stopping the obsession”. We were reminded of how the airlines tell passengers that in the event of an emergency, they should put on their own oxygen masks before putting on the masks for their children. As parents of addicts, we need to take care of ourselves by changing our internal and external dialog. 

Click here to read an article about Obsessions and Addiction, written by Darlene Lancer (speaker, writer, therapist). Below are quotes from the article that highlight the dangers of uncontrolled obsessing: 

When an obsession dominates us, it steals our will and saps all the pleasure out of life. 

Obsessions can paralyze us . . . We lose touch with ourselves, our feelings, and our ability to reason and solve problems. 

The more we’re obsessed about someone else, the more of ourselves we lose.

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April is Alcohol Awareness Month - submitted by Roxie
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Outcry for Alcoholism Awareness:  An Honest Answer Can Make a Life-Changing Difference
by Roxie

The month of April is designated as Alcohol Awareness Month to bring the progressive disease of alcoholism to the forefront. Many of us have experienced, first-hand, the insidious ravages of alcoholism that devastate and even destroy families and relationships. Until the establishment of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1934 by a courageous alcoholic named Bill W., there was no help available to those fighting a losing liquid battle. He was the mainstay who solidified sobriety for millions of men and women who are clean and sober today through following the 12 Steps of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.

Please use this month to become more vigilant to invisible signs that may signal that an intervention is needed in a drinker’s life. The following is a 20 question survey that may help you or others determine if one is slowly staggering toward the road to alcohol addiction.

Answer YES or NO to the following questions:

1. Do you lose time from work due to drinking?
2. Is drinking making your home life unhappy?
3. Do you drink because you are shy with other people?
4. Is your drinking affecting your reputation?
5. Have you ever felt guilt or remorse after drinking?
6. Have you ever got into financial difficulties as a result of drinking?
7. Do you turn to lower companions and an inferior environment when drinking?
8. Does your drinking make you careless of your family’s welfare?
9. Has your ambition decreased since drinking?
10. Do you crave a drink at a definite time?
11. Do you want a drink the next morning?
12. Does drinking cause you to have difficulty in sleeping?
13. Has your efficiency decreased since drinking?
14. Is drinking jeopardizing your job or business?
15. Do you drink to escape from worries or trouble?
16. Do you drink alone?
17. Have you ever had a complete loss of memory as a result of drinking?
18. Has your physician ever treated you for drinking?
19. Do you drink to build up your self-confidence?
20. Have you ever been to a hospital or institution because of drinking?

What's your score?

-If you have answered YES to any one of the questions, there is a definite warning that you may be an alcoholic.
-If you have answered YES to any two, the chances are that you are an alcoholic.
-If you answered YES to three or more, you are definitely an alcoholic.

(It has been said that these test questions were once used at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Baltimore, MD, in deciding whether or not a patient is an alcoholic.).

Show your support by being their support! Accompany the person to their first AA meeting.  If you are in the greater Pittsburgh area, find a meeting listed here.  For meetings anywhere in the U.S. or Canada, check out this link.  The month of April may become their first step toward sobriety, as you purposely help to save their life.

“To the world you may be one person, but to that one person you may be the world.” ― Bill W.

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What Social Apps are your Kids Using?
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, March 18, 2015

What apps are your children using and what do they do?

Texting and instant messaging aside, do you know what your child is doing on the computer and on his/her smart phone? You are probably seeing less of your children’s faces, and more of the tops of their heads as they hunch over the latest gadget, while communicating with friends - at least we assume that they are conversing with friends.  

Let’s take a quick look at some of the most popular apps being used by teens.

1. Ask.fm- (developer’s minimum age of 13). People can post questions and answer other’s posted questions. The poster may do so anonymously if s/he wishes. Anyone, including those without an ask.fm account can see what’s posted on a profile.

Concerns: Total strangers may interact with your child. Also, this has been an avenue for anonymous teasing and cyber bullying.

2. Facebook- (developer’s minimum age of 13). People are able to connect with family and friends online. Although this social networking site is falling behind newer sites in use, it is still popular.

Concerns: Although there are many settings that promote privacy, many users are not aware of exactly how much information that they are sharing with the public. Strangers may “request” to “friend” your child where they would be able to see all of your child’s information on their profile. People continue to use this site to bully, threaten, and intimidate others by creating fake profiles, posting mean messages, pretending to be someone else.

3. Instagram- (developer’s minimum age of 13). People are able to filter and post pictures and videos to upload on this social networking site.

Concerns: Posts may contain pictures or videos of children without their knowledge. Users can also share their location with others. This site can also be used to bully, threaten, and intimidate others. Users should realize that their posts can end up anywhere.

4. KiK- (developer’s minimum age 17; ages 13-18 must have parental consent).  This app is a texting service that lets texts and pictures be sent without being listed in the phone’s history.

Concerns: Children may use this app to hide their information from their parents.  Strangers can still contact your child by sending friend requests and kids sometimes text inappropriate images that are less likely to be found out by parents.

5. Omegle- (developer’s minimum age 17; ages 13-18 must have parental consent; however, it is unknown if verification is done). A free online chat room, for texting and also video chatting. Users are able to communicate with total strangers.

Concerns: Kids sometimes think that it is safer to share secrets with strangers.  With newer software, the person can make up a “fake stranger” for others to talk to. The bottom line is that you cannot be sure if the person that you are video chatting is real or not.

6. ooVoo- (developer’s minimum age of 13). Users can have video chats with up to 12 people at a time, send instant messages, and text each other.

Concerns: Users are able to talk to many people at the same time. This site can also be used to bully, threaten, and intimidate others. Users can “video” the screen and use the material in the future without the other person’s knowledge.

7. Poof- An app for your phone, you can use it to hide any apps that you do not want others to see.

Concerns: This app will hide other apps that you may not want them to use. If you see the Poof Icon- they are hiding something from you.

8. Snapchat- (the site reports that those who are 13-18 should get permission from a parent, and no one under the age of 13 should use the site; however, no age is requested upon sign-up). Users are able to send pictures to be viewed by others for up to 10 seconds and then they disappear. They are said to be “gone forever”.

Concerns: Children can be misled to believe that they are safe to post anything without repercussions. Users may also take a screenshot and be free to share it on other social networking sites. This site can also be used to for sexting and bullying. It was also discovered that Snapchat had saved thousands of these pictures when they were hacked in 2014. The bottom line is that those pictures are never truly deleted!

9. Snaphack- An app that goes along with Snapchat. This saves all pictures that have been shared on Snapchat without the other user’s knowledge.

Concerns: Users may believe that there are no remaining pictures out in cyberspace. When in reality; someone has saved them for possible future use.

10. Vine- This app allows users to upload 5 second videos that replay over and over again (looping). The videos are shared and reshared with others.

Concerns: This site can also be used to bully, threaten, and intimidate others.

11. Whisper- This app encourages users to anonymously post confessions of their secrets without consequences.

Concerns: This site can give children a misguided sense of safety. The app allows private messages to allow strangers to talk to your child. Anyone with the app in your geographic area can see your Whisper; therefore, it is a real possibility that someone may be able to identify the user.

12. YikYak- (developer’s minimum age requirement is 17). This app allows the user to remain anonymous and post comments that can be seen by the first
500 people within a 5 mile radius.

Concerns: Translation: “I can be mean, and no one will know it’s me.”

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Taking Care of Yourself
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, March 15, 2015

The following is an excerpt/paraphrase from an article by Cathy Taughinbaugh.  You can find her full text by clicking this link.

Are you feeling overwhelmed, guilty, angry, or ashamed because of your child’s drug or alcohol use?  Maybe you are feeling all of those emotions?  You know that your situation is unhealthy for you and your family, but you may feel helpless to do anything about it.
"While there are many things that a parent or family member can do, your child will make the final decision on whether s/he will seek a better life or continue on down his/her destructive path.  Of course, the hope is that one day your child will make better choices and create a more positive life for himself/herself."

But what can you do in the meantime to help yourself, and begin the essential process of healing? Here are nine ideas to get you started:

1. Take care of yourself.
2. Educate yourself on recovery strategies that will help you and your family member.  (Note:  Attend a PSST, NA, or AA meeting!  Read postings on the PSST blog!)
3. Positive reinforcement can make a difference
4. Allow for natural consequences to occur.
5. Create a social network
6. Start a physical exercise program
7. Pay attention to other family members
8. Live in The Now
9. Have Gratitude. 

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You are Invited to Share your Experiences
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, March 11, 2015

You are invited to share your recovery-related experiences at either of two Listening Forums, sponsored by Allegheny County's Department of Human Services.  The forums will be held in March in McKeesport and on the North Side. These forums present an opportunity for individuals/families in the community to share experiences (both positive and negative) of wellness and recovery from addiction and/or mental illness.  All are welcome to attend!  

"We want to hear what you think can be done to strengthen and support Drug & Alchohol / Mental Health Recovery in your community."

The forums are scheduled as follows.  Click on the links for more details.

Date:  Thursday, March 12
Time:  6:30 - 8:00pm
Location:  Twin Rivers Primary School
           McKeesport, PA

Date:  Wednesday, March 25
Time:  6:00-8:00pm
Location:  2801 N. Charles St.
           Pittsburgh, PA  (North Side)

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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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