Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Posted by:Ken Sutton--Friday, December 22, 2006

(This was written by John Clayton a member of the Bridge to Hope Family Support Group. The group meets 7 PM every Wednesday in the Donor Hall Conference Room at UPMC Passavant Hospital - all are welcome)

The Bridge To Hope, the name we have chosen for our family support group, says a lot more than those four monosyllables would imply. The key word, of course, is “hope.” The second most important word is “bridge.” Our “bridge” can be very helpful moving us from a dark place to one of light and resolve...or said another way, hope. But what exactly is “hope,” why do we need it, how do we acquire it, and how do we advance beyond it? And what does our “bridge” do to move us in the right direction?

In order to better understand exactly what hope is, and why we need it, let’s look at words that describe the opposite of hope.

Some that come to mind are: despair, pessimism, discouragement, abandonment, desperation, condemnation, ruin, cynicism, emptiness, disaster, helplessness..... and on and on the list goes. None of the descriptions of the opposite of hope are appealing in any way, and they are especially unappealing if they last for any appreciable length of time. On the other hand, when applying synonyms for the word “hope,” such as confidence, expectation, trust, desire, anticipation, encouragement, cheer, reassurance, and courage, we can appreciate the positives of hope. When looking at “hope” vs. “hopelessness,” it becomes obvious that without hope in the face of adversity, the forces that can lead to our physical and mental destruction can be overwhelming and victorious over us if we are not vigilant against them.

So ok, we agree that having hope is a good thing. We can also agree that without it, we can languish forever in the murkiness of depression and victimhood. But when it is all said and done, “hope” is really just a feeling.....a feeling that what is wanted will happen. Very few positive things ever happen though, just because we “feel” a certain way. Those feelings have to be backed by actions that support the feeling. For example, we can hope that our next vacation will be in Hawaii, in February, basking in 85 degree temperatures on a peaceful beach attached to a posh resort while our friends are all shivering in sub-zero weather. That hope can be a very joyous feeling as we imagine ourselves free of daily pressures and relaxing in an idyllic atmosphere. But for that vacation to actually become a reality, there are a few things we have to do to make it happen, such as save up some money, make airline and hotel reservations, arrange for a rental car, and so on. These steps all support our hope.....and without them, the hope for that great vacation will never materialize.

Likewise, as we all hope for the recovery of our addicted loved ones, there are steps we must take to make sure that our hope is not hollow and without merit. We all know what those steps are.....avoid enabling, end co-dependency, force the addict to face the consequences of his or her choices, move on with our own lives, help other families similarly situated, share experiences with others, support the rehabilitation process, celebrate achievements along the way, and press on....always forward....never backward. Those steps are most often much easier to know and say than to actually do....but absent most or all of these actions, hope doesn’t stand a chance of fulfillment. This is where our “bridge” comes in.

It is difficult to do the things that absolutely have to be done in order to achieve our hoped-for positive outcomes. These requirements are unintuitive, require discipline and stamina, strength and tenacity and they are hard to plan and execute; but they are made easier by the support and encouragement of others who have been forced to make the same sacrifices and exert the same energy toward the realization of their hopes. I contend that “hope” loves company and that misery does not have a monopoly on that principle! The genuine empathy of others, combined with the sharing of plans and events that have been successful, can be a constant reinforcement to the hopes of every member. Our support group also provides a social outlet that helps us overcome the feelings of loneliness, isolation and ostracism that often accompany a family member’s addiction. The group is also a “reality check” for its members, providing programs, speakers, leads, conversation, reinforcement and other stimuli to keep “hope” on track for success.

Hope, then, is in fact, a necessary ingredient in the realization of our true objective: the recovery of our loved one. The natural tendency of any family is to experience the opposite of hope, especially during the earliest phases of the problem. Bridging the abyss of despair, pessimism, discouragement, abandonment, desperation, condemnation, ruin, cynicism, emptiness, disaster, and helplessness to reach the shore of confidence, expectation, trust, desire, anticipation, encouragement, cheer, reassurance, and courage is a necessary and important process, because without that bridge and its resulting rescue from the abyss, we will be able to accomplish nothing, neither for ourselves nor for our loved one. The Bridge To Hope attempts to facilitate this transition week in, week out, year in, and year out. In the same way that a goal is a dream with a plan, HOPE is a wish with substance. Hope is not a destination….the destination is our loved ones’ recovery, achieved by undertaking the difficult tasks and actions that keep hope alive!

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ACT 53 Information for Allegheny County, PA
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Thursday, December 21, 2006

ACT 53 – The Short Version. You can use the legal system to force your child into a drug and alcohol treatment program without it resulting in a criminal record for your child. More details follow but it is fairly easy to do and trained professionals will support you in the process. To get the process started call 412-350-3952.

This is the official overview of the ACT 53 process. More information can be found here.
Allegheny County has multiple systems in place to offer help and guidance to teens, their families and friends. The health and welfare of children and teens has always been a top priority in Allegheny County. The implementation of ACT 53 in 1998 was a new way to offer help to parents of teens who are struggling with drug and alcohol problems. ACT 53 of 1997 addresses the involuntary commitment of minors into drug and alcohol treatment against their will.

ACT 53 Overview

ACT 53 is a groundbreaking law in the state of Pennsylvania. Previous to the enactment of ACT 53 in 1998, there was no method for parents to convince teenagers to receive help for drug and alcohol problems, unless the teens were willing to attend treatment. ACT 53 has bridged this "gap" in our systems and is providing treatment services to many teenagers who would have previously fallen through the proverbial crack.

Each county was assigned the task of setting up its own policy and procedures to implement ACT 53. Allegheny County established a very successful ACT 53 procedure due to an excellent collaboration between Allegheny County Juvenile Court and Allegheny County Department of Human Services, Drug and Alcohol Services Unit.

If a parent/legal guardian feels that their child has a drug or alcohol problem, and the child is unwilling to participate in a treatment program, the parent/legal guardian is to contact the County Drug and Alcohol Services Unit. The parent/legal guardian must be a resident of Allegheny County and the child must be between the ages of 12 and 17. An adolescent care manager will screen the case for its appropriateness and then guide the parent/legal guardian through the ACT 53 process.

The ACT 53 process is completed within four to six weeks. First, the parent(s) should contact the ACT 53 office and discuss their situation with a case manager. Second, the parent/legal guardian will be responsible to attend two court hearings. The first one will be to petition the judge to hear their case and the second court hearing will be the presentation of the parents' case and the placement decision for the minor. A drug and alcohol professional before the second hearing will complete a comprehensive assessment. The assessment, the parents/legal guardian's case, and the child's "side of the story" will all be presented to the court at the second hearing. The child will be assigned legal representation by the court. The parents/legal guardians are permitted to have legal representation, but the law does not require it. The judge will hear both sides of the case, and the drug and alcohol assessment and recommendation. He/She will render a decision for treatment or not based on the evidence presented to the court.

Third, If the child is found in need of treatment, a court order will be written and arrangements will be made for the child's treatment to begin as soon as possible. The law states that the parent/legal guardian is financially responsible to find funding for this child's treatment, whether it is public or private funds. The court accepts no financial liability or custody for this child.

The success of this program is evident in three unique areas. First, we are able to offer treatment services to teenagers who are unable or unwilling to ask for help. Second, the majority of these teens are headed for "the system", becoming either delinquent or dependent. Using the ACT 53 process allows parents and professionals to help these kids before they reach that point. Third, Allegheny County has implemented one of the only successful ACT 53 processes in the state of Pennsylvania. The parental relief found when they know their children are safe in treatment and the success of the teens themselves reflect why this law was enacted, why it is important, and why we must continue to support its processes.

If you would like more information concerning the ACT 53 law, policies or procedures, please contact the Allegheny County Drug and Alcohol Services Unit at 412-350-3952.

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Drugs and the brain
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Monday, December 18, 2006

(this was written by Margie Modro, MS,CPS Western Psychiatric Clinic & Institute of UPMC Presbyterian Drake Annex)

Most adults realize that adolescence is a time of transition. What has also been discovered by neuroscientists is that the brain of adolescents are less developed than previously believed. Adolescence is literally a time when a child is becoming , but is not yet, an adult. These discoveries have many implications for the use of alcohol and other drugs during this developmental period. The more parents understand what is happening during this critical period of brain development, the better they will be able to respond to the needs of their children.

There is lots of information available to help parents become better informed. A good starting point is Bringing the Power of Science to Bear on Drug Abuse and Addiction from the NIDA web site. An excerpt from the full article follows....

". . .This is how the memory of drugs works: The yellow area on the upper part of the second image is the amygdala (a-mig-duh-luh), a part of the brain’s limbic system, which is critical for memory and responsible for evoking emotions. For an addict, when a drug craving occurs, the amygdala becomes active and a craving for cocaine is triggered.

So if it’s the middle of the night, raining, snowing, it doesn’t matter. This craving demands the drug immediately. Rational thoughts are dismissed by the uncontrollable desire for drugs. At this point, a basic change has occurred in the brain. The person is no longer in control. This changed brain makes it almost impossible for drug addicts to stay drug-free without professional help. Because addiction is a brain disease.. . "

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Thursday, December 14, 2006

(This was written by John Clayton a member of the Bridge to Hope Family Support Group. The group meets 7 PM every Wednesday in the Donor Hall Conference Room at UPMC Passavant Hospital - all are welcome)

It was just another Monday evening after a hard day at work. Dinner was over and it was time to take a look at today’s newspaper and spend a little quiet time in “decompression mode.” There were all the usual national headlines and stories, a piece on road construction and when we might get some relief from it, re-caps of yesterday’s sports events, the editorials, the comics and local news. It was the local news that caught my attention that evening.

Yet another 19-year-old had been brutally murdered in his car in one of the more dangerous local neighborhoods. Police who were investigating the scene reported that numerous traces of drugs and paraphernalia were found in the vehicle and speculated to the reporter that the murder had all the earmarks of a drug deal gone bad or possibly that the victim had defaulted on a drug debt. In looking into the victim’s background, speaking with former classmates and neighbors, the reporter learned that the victim did indeed have a drug problem and it had been manifest since the age of fourteen.

I remember saying to myself, “What a tragedy…..19 years old, and life is over for this poor soul. What pain must the victim have suffered during that 5-year period and what pain must have been felt by the family.” I also remember saying to myself, “Thank God it wasn’t my son who died.”

After reading that jolting news and internalizing my reaction to it, I wrapped up my evening and went to bed and didn’t think much more about the story until a couple of days later, when in the “letters to the editor” section, there appeared a letter from a subscriber that was titled “Where Were The Parents?” The body of the letter took on an indignant but sincere tone as it expressed outrage and anger that the parents of this pitiful victim could have “let it happen,” the “it” being drug addiction. Although the letter’s primary question showed ignorance of the problem, it was a reasonable and understandable question to ask if the writer had never been confronted with the challenges of an addicted family member. As far as I know, no one ever responded to that rhetorical question. Here is the response I should have sent in to the paper:

“Where were the parents?” you ask. Let me tell you from personal experience where the parents were and how they “let it happen.”

They were both there in the delivery room that exciting day 19 years ago. Not only were the parents there, but also both sets of grandparents and a number of jubilant aunts, uncles and friends. The birth of that bouncing baby was heralded by the new parents as the high point of their lives as they rejoiced in the miracle that was that child.

Where were the parents? They were there when the baby needed food and shelter. They were there when the baby needed love, attention and care. They were prepared to sacrifice anything to assure that their child had the necessities of life and more.

They were there with camera in hand on the very first day of school. They were sad/happy as they watched their little tyke ascend the steps of the school bus and wave from inside. They were also there at the end of that day to greet their rapidly growing child and share the excitement and wonder of this new stage of life. This same enthusiasm for supporting their child/student continued throughout elementary and middle school. They were there to help with homework, to give advice on “pressing” social issues, to condemn disrespectful, violent and profane music and videos. They were there to celebrate successes and to counsel and coach in areas where help was needed. They shared the “heartbreak” of the first failed romance and provided positive reinforcement for every productive accomplishment. They encouraged independent thought and the questioning of things “as they are” as opposed to how they “might be.” Further, they exposed their child to music lessons, basketball camp, and other extra-curricular activities to enable discovery of any hidden or obvious talent. And yes, they spoiled their child too…by buying the “right” brand of clothes, the latest video system, the “best” games, a cool stereo system, a portable CD player….the “necessities” of teenage life. Yes, the parents were there for all of that.

They were also there the day a little plastic bag with grains of marijuana in the bottom was discovered on the floor of their child’s room. There was an almost immediate denial of the obvious….this situation CAN’T be what it appears to be. Our child just wouldn’t do this. When the confrontation occurred, the child’s denial of any knowledge of how that bag got where it was found satisfied the parents because it confirmed their strong belief in their child. And then there was the next bag. And the bag after that. And then the pills. And then the alcohol. After each discovery, the truth became more ominous, the reality of the situation more undeniable and the resulting discipline more severe.

The parents were there that day in the high school guidance counselor’s office when the first discussion of poor attendance and declining grades occurred. They were there to double their efforts helping their child to turn things around, to make a commitment to improvement and to get assurance from their child that changes would be made. All of the normal discipline was intensified….withholding privileges, removal of video games from the house, denial of use of the stereo, no TV, and “grounding.”

The parents were also there at the school a few weeks later when it became clear that their efforts had been futile and that their child needed in-patient rehabilitation. The trip to the school that day to sign the withdrawal papers was as onerous and sad as attending a funeral, but it was necessary and critical to saving the child’s life. They expressed their contempt for the lifestyle their child had adopted but reinforced their love and hope as they traveled the 85 miles to the rehab facility…and traveled it again every weekend over the next four weeks for visits.

Those four weeks of “clean time” and counseling really seemed to make a difference. The child came home with a fresh outlook and a determination to “get better.” Faithful attendance in night classes at the local community college, a resulting high score on the GED test, and the awarding of a state-certified high school diploma all added to the sense of direction and accomplishment. Narcotics Anonymous meetings, a sponsor, a job and a purpose all seemed to be converging to bring closure to this horrible chapter in the parents’ and the child’s lives. Love, hope, encouragement, support and celebration were the order of the day as things started to return to “normal.”

The parents were also there when the relapses began. They were there to help their child attend weekly appointments with a psychologist. Although disappointed and yes, even discouraged, they were there with more support, love, and understanding, while never giving up or losing hope. In this stage of reinforcement of the principles that had been counseled in the rehabilitation center and by the psychologist, the clean time lasted nearly two years and it looked like the crisis might really be over this time.

They were also there that day, after two years of relative peace, when once again money was missing from their home along with the home theater, digital camera, and jewelry. They were also there that day to observe the needle tracks on their child’s arms from heroin usage after rescuing him from a “crack” house. It seemed like the end of life itself.

Where were the parents? They were there the entire time, doing what parents do. They went to work, went shopping, took an occasional vacation, pursued some of their own interests, but through it all, they NEVER lost sight of their primary responsibility: raising their child to be a responsible citizen. They supervised their child’s development as attentively and competently as anyone could expect, and they did it ungrudgingly; in fact, enthusiastically. Nonetheless, the addiction occurred, the consequences were paid, and the struggle continued.

The next time you read about someone of any age, who was involved in a drug-related episode, please don’t immediately assume that there were negligent parents responsible for the outcome. Our son, who recently graduated from the Teen Challenge one-year faith-based substance abuse recovery program and who is about to turn 22, has given testimony in front of large crowds in churches all over the country, and to us directly, that it was NOT his parents’ fault…that the choices he made were his and his alone. Today, he is once again back on track, for which we are VERY thankful. But our vigilance in fulfilling our parental obligation is not over….it will be with us for as long as we live.

The typical parent of an addict looks and acts just like the typical parent of a child without this problem, with hopes, dreams and aspirations and a commitment to help their child achieve his or her full potential in life. The parents of addicts are our friends, our neighbors, members of our church, colleagues at work and regular folks with whom we interact every day. They are no different than any other parent….except for the challenge they courageously face every day and the tenacity with which they confront it.

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Parent Stories – Wanted
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This is your opportunity to share your story with others. Share something you learned. Share something that helped. Share something that you did wrong. Share your thoughts.
If you email the story to me at kene@nauticom.net I will post it for you anonymously. If you would rather post it yourself with some contact information and be listed as a contributor on the blog we can do that as well – just let me know.

Here are some ideas for stories that are just waiting to be written that would be helpful to parents who are new to this.

1. What is it like when your child is on probation?
2. What is it like when your child is in a rehab facility?
3. What is it like when your child is in Shuman?
4. What is it like when your child is in Abraxas?
5. What is it like when your child comes home from a placement?
6. What are the top 10 things you did to help your child that seem to have worked.
7. Why do you go to NARANON meetings?
8. What are some practical things you can do to help your child?

If you don’t want to write a story, what would you want to find on the blog that would help you right now. Leave a comment.

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Parent vs. Parent
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, December 09, 2006

One of the strategies of teenagers vying for power in the family is to divide and conquer. Often in group we have pointed out how important it is for parents to stand unified. To back each other up. To include each other as much as possible in the decision making. To take the disagreements to a place where teens can not hear the two parents working out their differences.

Sometimes it is important to support the other parent even when you disagree. Always, a compromise should be looked for so that both parents can feel ownership with the approach. But what happens when parents are separated or divorced, and as is often the case, there is tremendous animosity between them?

The whole thing can get very complicated. For one, the teenager who is trying to continue his addictive lifestyle will naturally play one parent against the other. He will be aware of the tensions and resentments being played out. In fact, as both parents desire to win his approval, playing one parent against the other will bring him more and more power.

And secondly, the teenager is probably going to side with the parent who is most enabling of him in his addiction. The one that most wants to rescue him from the consequences of his addiction is naturally going to be the teen-favorite. Sometimes, but not always, the enabling parent has a relationship with substances too. Therefore, he or she minimizes the seriousness life-threatening nature of the teenager's addiction. Often, there is a whole lot of drama and finer-pointing. Through it all, the teenage drug addict wants the focus to be on the parents, not on him. When parents verbally attack each other, the trap has been sprung.

I hope that a few rules or points to keep in mind will be helpful, especially for estranged parents. Some of the readers might be thinking, "Oh that's great- make some rules- but my ex-spouse won't be reading this blog, or playing by the 'rules' -so what then?" Good question. These are rules that when observed, should STRENGTHEN a parent's position- not the other way around.

  • Do not trash the other parent in front of your teenager. My mother used to tell me, and I'm sure a lot of us heard this one, "If you can't say anything nice about someone- dont' say anything." Well, I would like to modify this to say, "If you can't say anything nice about each other don’t say anything at all IN FRONT OF YOUR TEENAGER." Blaming each other takes the focus off the teenager. Especially, this is true when parents blame each other for the teenager's addiction or for his most recent relapse.

  • You can't say anything bad about someone's mother! Period. No one puts up with that. And often, you can't say anything about their father either. It makes people angry and defensive. Naturally they defend the parent who is being attacked. So, if a mother trashes the father, the tendency will be for the teenager to move closer to the persecuted in an effort to protect that parent. In a sense the whole thing backfires. Likewise, if you are being trashed by the other parent, rest assured that if you do not trash back, it will backfire.

  • Both parent's intentions are good. Both parents love the teenager and want that teenager to be successful. It is only the manner in which they go about it that makes people at odds with each other.

  • Take some responsibility for what has happened. Realize that you choose this mother or father to parent your teenager. At one time, you believed that this person could be a good parent. Probably they ARE a good parents in many respects. Your teenager should never have to choose between you and your spouse. He can and should have you both.

  • The more support that you give to your ex-spouse's effort to parent your teen, the more power will flow back to you. It is paradoxical in some ways, but showing support for your ex-spouse in front of your teenager, puts you "above the fray." It is good to be seen as above the fray. Otherwise, you are seen as petty and small minded. Remember, this is always about your teenager and his drug problem. It is not about the two of you and how much you may hate each other.

  • Stand up for what you believe. Confront your teenager and, when necessary, confront the other parent. However, there is a difference between standing up for what you believe in and attacking the other person. There might be a fine line to walk here. When possible, take the disagreements outside of earshot of the teenager.

  • Neither of you is responsible for your teenager's addiction. Maybe you both feel responsible because of mistakes that you have made. You both may find that you swing between believing that the other parent is "killing my teenager" and worrying that you yourself have set the stage for your teen's demise into drug addiction. We all influence each other and it may be that you both have played a role; however, it is now the teenager's responsibility to take or not take the first one. As the adults blame each other - no one holds the teenager responsible for his own choices. Even though we can not change the past- we don't have to let it hold us hostage either. Amends can be made and many things that looked hopeless can yet have a happy ending.

  • If you teenager travels between your two houses, attempt to keep the rules consistent. For example, if your teen is not allowed to contact old friends when he is at one house, but he can contact them when he is at the other parent's house, the one is undermining the other. If the other parent refuses to support your teenager's sobriety ten do not let them visit the other parent. (Don't trash the other parent- just do not allow the visit until you believe that they will be supportive of your teenagers' sobriety.) Or, if the other parent will not maintain Conditions Of Supervision that you have worked out with your teenager's Probation Officer, then do not let them visit the other parent. An example of how this might play out where the parent is walking a fine line between not trashing the other parent and not allowing the visit. Consider this role-play:

Mom: I have some bad news honey.

Son: What?

Mom: I know that you very much wanted to spend the weekend with your father, but the way things are right now- we can't do that.

Son: Why not? You hate dad! You never want me to be around him! You made him leave us in the first place cause you are such an idiot!

Mom: Well it hurts me that you think so. Nevertheless, you can't go to see him this weekend.

Son: You haven't told me why though have you? Cause you hate him and you're just jealous that he has a new girlfriend whose is younger than you are!

Mom: You're absolutely right about something honey. Good point. I have not told you why you can't visit. And as long as you treat me disrespectfully I won't bother to explain anything.

Son: You can't do that!

Mom: Regardless

Son: I'll go anyway.

Mom: It's not acceptable.

Son: Why? I hate you!

Mom: Nevertheless, this is non-negotiable.

Son: What are you going to do, turn me into my PO if I go?

Mom: Of course I talk with your PO all the time. You know I won't lie for you.

Son: What am I supposed to tell dad?

Mom: Have him call me. [Walks away.]

PHONE CALL BETWEEN MOM ANS DAD LATER (teenager is not around.)

Mom: Hello

Dad: What's this sh*t about you trying keep me away from my son again?

Mom: Yes, I'm not surprised that it looks that way to you.

Dad: Well that's what it is.

Mom: Do you want to discuss this now? Is this a good time?

Dad: Yes of course I want to discuss it now- that's a stupid question. You are so full of yourself. So self- righteous. Like you know what's best for everyone all the time.

Mom: Well now is good for me too, but I have to tell you something first and you not going to like it.

Dad: I never like what you have to say. That's why I try to avoid you at all costs.

Mom: Fine. But you seem to want to talk to me know. So listen up- ok? I'm not going to feel like repeating this.

Dad: Go ahead

Mom: I won't discuss this with you if you are going to attack me or treat me disrespectfully. If that happens again in this conversation, then I'm hanging up. I have to tell you that I've been making some changes around here and if you can talk about this in a fairly decent fashion, I would like to share some things with you.

Dad: I'm listening.

Mom: It's ok that we don't see eye-to-eye about things. And I do want you to visit your son- God knows- I could use a break. But it IS NOT in my job description as your son's mother to any longer accept being verbally abused by you or by your son. So, if YOU need to speak to me about anything- you have to do it in a respectful way. And if you want to give your son a tip- tell him that the party's over- from now on he will not get his way by ranting and raving. In the past I gave into him just to keep the peace. Not any more.

Dad: Ok, what else? (sounds exasperated.)

Mom: He can't stay overnight at anyone's house anymore. It's not just your house. It is not permitted by his Probation Officer and I agree with that completely.

Dad: That's ridiculous. I'm his father.

Mom: Because you are his father, an exception CAN be made that he can stay at your house- but not anyone else's house. And he can only stay at your house if you contact his Probation Officer and let him knows that you agree with and will follow his Conditions of Supervision. I have a copy here that I can email you if you want, and I have his Probation Officer's name and number here. He said that he would like to talk with you.

Dad: I don't have time to deal with this guy. You tell him I'll look the thing over, and that's it's OK that I take him this weekend, OK?

Mom: Sorry, I know that you are busy, but I can't do that.

Dad: I'm not getting involved with these government types. They are assh*oles. They don't care about our son- they are just cops!

Mom: Nevertheless, that is the only way. But I am disappointed.

Dad: Why is that?

Mom: Because I think it would be good for him to spend some time with you. I know he misses you. You are very important to him.

Dad: Well, why is this contact with his PO so god dammed important. (The tone of his voice is calming a bit now.)

Mom: Because he has a life-threatening disease of Heroin addiciton and we are trying to keep him clean and positive about his recovery. You know, so that he doesn't have to get sent away again and so that he stays alive. That's why the rules are so strict around here, and we need to know that they will be strict at your house too.

Dad: Ok, ok, ok. I'll call this guy. But I hold you responsible for all this bull shyt, and if you had done what I told you to do years ago, he wouldn't be on Heroin. You know that dont' you?

Mom: Yes I know that you think that his drug addiction is all my fault. Nevertheless, here is the PO's name and phone number- do you have a pencil?

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Summary of 12-2-06 Meeting
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, December 03, 2006

We had a small intimate meeting with six parents. We started the meeting off with role-plays. The subject was getting your teen out of bed in the morning. Especially, if your teenager is actively questioning your parental authority, it is very important to establish yourself as Parent-in-charge by making sure that he is out of bed at the prearranged time.

We had fun with a different kind of role-play that featured God talking to two parents. No offense was meant towards any one's spiritual beliefs. The following is not an exact representation of the role-play, in fact, I added some extra stuff. Anyway, something similar actually happened in Group.

God: Well, you guys called this meeting. What is up?
First Mom: Well, why did you make this parenting job so hard?
God: Ahhh, it is almost impossible sometimes, isn't it? I mean, supervising kids who are doing drugs is sooooo hard. How do you make sure they aren't out getting high, or associating with the wrong people? You aren't with them all the time, are you? That seems to be the problem.
Second Mom: Yeah, you made this job really hard.
First Mom: Why the hell did you even make me a parent?
God: Now, now now [wagging finger] let's watch that language.
First Mom: [smiling] Oooh, OK, why the heck, did you even make me a parent?
God: Well, I designed it as a volunteer position.
First Mom: Well, things happen that you don't really plan for.
God: Yes, that is true.
Second Mom: Well, why did you make it so impossible to supervise our kids, especially when they have a drug problem?
God: Yes, well that is a good question. I'm not sure this answer will make sense to you, but sometimes things are hard. That is pretty much the way I designed this whole "free choice" thing.
God: But one thing I will say, is I knew when i designed this job, that it would be tremendously difficult for some. So, I programmed in some special features that can make the job easier.
Second mom: Yeah? Pray tell?
God: Well, since you put it that way! You see, the problem with a lot of it, is that you are not with your teenagers all the time. You can't be. So, since you are not there with them, and they have the "free-choice" thing too, it is very difficult to guide them. So, to help you assume your rightful place as Parent-in-charge, I designed a few quick methods. The idea is that once your teenager accepts that you are "in-charge," then they will not question you so much on a lot of these other hard-to-supervise issues.
God: For example, while you can not be with your teenager all the time, you ARE there when they get out of bed. And getting someone out of bed is the easiest of all the parent responsibilities.
First mom: How is that easy? I have a really hard time getting mine out of bed.
God: Oh, well I designed it to be easy. You see, they are ASLEEP, and when i designed "sleep" I made sure to make the person who is sleeping HELPLESS. So, if they are asleep, then you are only limited by your own willpower and your own imagination as to when they will get out of bed.
First mom: But they wake up mad!
God: Exactly! An angry person cannot sleep! Therefore, you have gotten them out of the bed and established your parental authority. Now, if you do that consistently, then you will have established yourself as Parent-in-charge, and your teenager, angry as he/she is, will "tend" to follow your other parental expectations.
God: If, on the other hand, you can't get them out of bed, or if you struggle with taking an hour to "coax" them out of bed, then your teenager has established himself as "Teenager-in-charge." Quite naturally, if your teenager sees that you can't even get him out of bed, then he will assume that you can't manage them in the trickier areas.
God: Also, there are other "easy ways" that I have programmed into this job, just so that you can establish your position as Parent-in-charge. For example, you have the magic word "No." It works in many situations, and you should get a lot of mileage out of that word. Watch out for that one though- if you feel you have to give a good reason for each time you use it- it gets weaker.
God: "Nevertheless" and "regardless" are other magic words that can really pay off. Part of the magic that i built into these words is that the more you use them, the more power they tend to assume. If you take advantage of these simple "quick methods," you will find that you have more power than you had before.
Second mom: Just how are we to get them out of bed?
God: Different approaches will work, as long as you are clear and consist. For example, let them know what time you will give the first warning call. Let them know that there will only be one warning, or you insist, only two warnings. Tell them what time you will make it impossible for them to sleep. You do not have to tell them the exact method that you will use, e.g., water, or just stripping the bed of bedclothes, loud music playing or whatever. But you can tell them if you want. It is pretty much impossible to sleep through a cup of water on the face.
God: Then, the hard part, is FOLLOW THROUGH. Of course you teenager will be angry. So? That is the price you pay to be the Parent-in-charge. Let them know, however, that any assault will be reported to Probation Officer and/or the police. In fact, if you have a Probation Officer, make sure to include him/her in on this plan. Working closely with the Probation Officer always makes your position stronger. Come to think of it, I had the idea for making Probation Officers right after I realized how difficult this parent job could be. I said to myself, "you know this is going to be really hard for some parents, and I'm going to have to send in back-up." So, that's how it all came about.

Well, I hope everyone had fun with this ice-breaker role-play. Next, we did a role-play where the mom was setting the stage to get her teenager out of bed. She was clear with him about what time he would "find it impossible to sleep." She also told her teenager that he would get up on Saturdays, for a while, as well as Monday through Friday. Of course, the teenager was incensed by this idea and pointed out that he did not go to school on Saturdays. The mother pointed out that he would get up NEVERTHELESS, simply because she wanted him to get up. Chores for example, needed done.

Well, lets go back to the whole point of getting your teenager out of bed at a particular time. If the main goal is to establish that you are "Parent-in-charge" then seizing Saturday is a coup d’√Čtat for the parent. It's clear that he is getting out of bed at the predetermined time, because the parent says so. Also, if the teenager is already out of bed when the parent goes into grant the first warning call, a special reward may be in order, because this demonstrates that they can get themselves up now, quite an accomplishment for a teenager.

It's always important when we talk about the Power thing to remember that power can also be corrupting. Keep the relationship healthy by giving lots of positive encouragement and accepting that your teenagers have their own feelings and while they may make wrong choices, they don't have wrong feelings. This is the double edge of parenting- once you establish a little power, show some generosity in other areas. Be supportive. Be fun to be around. Be creative with compliments, make a favorite breakfast for the teenager, and let him "win" in some other areas. But darn it, get those young men and women out of bed and on schedule in the morning.

One parent shared this story. Her son is in a half way house for men. He planned a trip home, one in which the mom had to pick him up and transport, so that he could hang out with a peer with whom he used to shoot heroin. This mother questioned him as to why he thought that it was ok to hang out with this old recovering peer. This interaction went something like this:

Mom: Why would you think that its ok to hang with John?
Son: Hes in recovery now.
Mom: But you used with him.
Son: That doesn't matter.
Mom: You said it mattered when you said it would be bad to hang with Frank. What makes John different?
Son: I said it would be bad to live with Frank, not to hang with him. All i want to do is hang with John:
Mom: No I don't think that is right. You are both triggers for each other.
Son: You put me in this house and its full of heroin addicts!
Mom: But you didn't use with those addicts.
Son: I don't see the differnece. You know, if you wont' let me do anything I want, then why am I even workin so hard to stay clean?
Mom: It sounds like your recovery is hangin by a thread today, son.
Son: You just make me mad is all, and that makes it hard for me to stay clean.
Mom: I'll come out there and visit you if you want.
Son: No, if I can't come home and hang with John, just forget it!
Mom: OK

Then, mom follows up by calling the house manager and sharing the above. The manager confronts the son and the other people in the house confront him. In fact, hangin with people that you used with early in recovery is not recommended, even if both of you are in recovery now. This young man has ten months clean, but the "Mom-count" is less than a month, because he has been in placement for nine months.) Later in recovery, it may be acceptable to hang with people with whom you used.

The son calls the mother and admits that he was wrong. He asks that she still come down for a visit. Hats off to this astute mother. She used the "no" word as discussed above with good results. She also identified this as NOT ENABLING her son. Further, she called the house manager so that this issue could be aired out. Remember, our secrets keep us sick. If we keep the secrets for our teenagers then we enable them to remain sick. Put some light on these issues by disclosing to someone.

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Welcome to the experiment
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, December 03, 2006

The PSST met yesterday and decided to give this blog a try on a voluntary basis. A few guidelines to remember:

1. You should manage your own profile to disclose as much or little about yourself as you are comfortable with.
2. Do not use real names in your comments

OK, kick the tires, give it a try. You can leave comments after any post. Try leaving some here to test if you like.

If you would like to be on the blog editing team just drop me an email.

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Summary of 11-20-06 Meeting
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, November 21, 2006

We met last night with ten parents and two group leaders. What a positive meeting overall!!! Many of our teenagers are doing pretty good at the moment, drug-free and leading fairly responsible lives! Some of the reports of our teens in adult halfway houses is mixed, some still struggling, but taking it one day at time and not doing so badly! Some reports were more spectacular. One story in particular involved a young lady on probation who is taking her recovery very seriously. She had an accident with the car while she was driving herself and some friends to a 12-step meeting. She was teenage-naive about some factors, like where was the car being towed and would it be fixed? But it was a clean experience and in a surprising twist of expectations, the police offered to drive her and her friends to the 12-step meeting. So the small group of teens got a police escort to the 12-step meeting!

We had fun with a role-play at the end of the meeting. I asked a parent play her teenage son who is placed in a long term drug treatment facility. I played the mother and she played herself. He told me (as the mother) that it was my fault and "that Probation Officer's fault," that he was sent to Abraxas. I said I was speechless. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of that and some commented that it isn't often that you have Lloyd speechless. Of course, I was not really. The rest of the role-play went something like this:

Mother (me): Thank you. Thank you very much for saying that- but you know I can't take all the CREDIT. But yes, I stood up in court and told the judge a lot- and I get some of the credit for you being sent to Abraxas. You are right there. Good point, Son.

Teen (the mother playing her son): Thanks a lot mom! (facetiously said of course.)

Mother (me): "Oh honey, you ain't seen nothing yet. I want you to stay at Abraxas as long as it takes for you to change yourself, so that you don't kill yourself when you get out. And believe me, I will do everything in my power to see that you have a chance to beat this drug thing. WATever I have to do, including standing up in court again, and telling the judge that you are not ready to be discharged, if that is what I think will help you save your life. You see Son, whether you try or not, I am going to try to help you save your own life!"

Teen (the mother playing her son): [Glares] "Why do you have to care so much mom? Why can't you just back off?

Long pause with eye contact.

Mother (me): [ softly but moving in with the body language..."honey, you could never, never, never, never ever understand- because you can never give birth to a child!

I guess for me to say that, being a male, playing a mother must have been funny, because people laughed. I didn't mean it disrespectfully towards men, but I knew from talking with mothers, including my wife, that there is this thing often, that if one does not know how it feels to give birth to a child, that you could never understand the connection between a mother and her child. And that is true- being a man- I will never know that. Although, I also know that my son-in-law is a stay-at-home Dad and loving it. He has become the main caretaker of my grandaughter and he might argue the closeness thing. So, I think I said it just to let the mothers know- "hey I can understand it enough to at least admit that I can never understand it."

The main point of the role-play, however, was not the gender thing. Look, when our teens blame us for stuff that we did play a part in, like saving their lives for example, perhaps by some heroic act that took a great deal of courage, like calling the police or standing up in Court and telling the Judge that your teenager needs to be placed in treatment for as long as possible- don't forget to take some of the credit. You got it coming.

Sometimes we are trying to argue that WE DIDN'T do it. They got themselves put away, and while that is true on one level, we also had something to do with it. Also, when we deny our role in the whole thing it misses that chance to...

(1) model "accepting responsibility." After all, they learn that often by watching us. What can we fess up to? How would we react if our teen got arrested for a Burglary and they said, "I didn't really do it- I was just the lookout. I never entered the building. I didn't steal anything." Well, OK, but gee, you burglarized the house just the same- that's what we would say. Partial culpability is still culpability.

(2) denying that you had anything to do with your child's placement outside the home in a drug treatment facility is counterproductive in the sense that the teen is saying (if you read between the lines): "You were powerful enough to have me sent up here!" Often the reply from the parent is "No, I'm not that powerful." But wait! We need to take this and turn it around and say, "Well, I'm glad YOU think so! Yes, I try, and I'm getting stronger too!"

Another point that came up at the meeting is about Powerlessness. It is a concept from step 1 of 12-step programs. In Naranon and Alanon this point is hit home repeatedly. One parent brought up an idea expressed by a local guru of recovery, that God is at all the meetings because he is working on Powerlessness too. That seems to be the whole point of Free Will. I love that analogy and it does gives pause for thought.

For example, it seems contradictory to say that parents are powerless, because parents are not powerless over their teens completely. That is the also the whole point of Back In Control programs like ours. To me it boils down to this. We are powerless over the decisions that our teens make, including whether or not they are going to get high. They, and they alone will make their choices. However, we are not powerless over our own decisions, and that includes those parenting choices that we make. So, while it is true that we can not control anyone else, it is also true that we all influence each other.

Where this becomes a problem is if a parent says that he is powerless, so he does nothing but stand by and watch his son or daughter kill themselves with drugs. That is a misunderstanding of who he is powerless over. He is powerless over the choices that his teen makes; he isn't powerless over his own parenting choices. Big difference.

If indeed the only person we can truly change is our self, and the rest of the people we can at best influence, then we need to do our best to change our self and our parenting choices in the way that maximizes our influence over our teenagers. After we do that, then we wait and see. Sometimes we get lucky and sometimes we don't. But it's better than doing nothing. And when it's time to look ourselves in the mirror- it should count for something and mean something that we gave it the good fight.

Thanks to everyone who made last night a great meeting. Please keep coming back to support us in this life and death struggle.

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Use your Probation Officer
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Make sure your child knows beyond any doubt that you will call the PO as needed, when needed everytime. No secrets from the PO. Make sure you keep the power in the situation by letting your child know that you will use the PO to make sure that your child gets the support and help he needs to stay safe and drug free. In other words, it is not "wait till your father gets home" with the PO but the parent controlling the situation and using the PO as a tool to have their will done.

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New Sheriff in town
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When your child is in placement use the opportunity to show him that things will be different when he gets home. Tell him. So what if he gets mad. What is he going to do? It may result in a bad visit or a short phone call but you are putting him on notice that things have changed and you are in charge.

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Who Has the Power?
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Be aware that your young person will attempt to regain power that he has lost. Before the placement he probably had way too much power in the family. You may have found it difficult to keep parental control. Some of the techniques that young peole use to regain control come natural to them and are not always planned. Nevertheless, it is important to see these for what they are. Some acts to regain power are getting lound and excited, focusing on your behavior, telling you not to report negative things to the PO, telling you that if you ground him he will go out any way

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Owning the problem
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Tuesday, November 21, 2006

When your child blames you for his problem like "..it is your fault that I am in placement." Take that power, accept it. Tell him he is right and you will do whatever it takes to keep him safe and drug free. Agree with him that you have much power over his life and will continue to exercise it.

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Tuesday, November 21, 2006

This is a power word to show that you are in charge. Tell your child what you want them to do, if they respond negatively you say.. "nevertheless, this is what I want you to do". Then stop Talking is over ratted. Talk less and hold him accountable more.

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July-9-2005 Meeting Summary
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, July 09, 2005

Four parents representing four families attended our last meeting on July 9. Probably, our attendance has dropped a bit due to summer vacations. However, it gave us a chance to have a more intimate group. As usual, we took a break after going around the group for introductions and updates. Then, we arranged the following three role-plays based on a real life scenarios presented by parents.

A 16-year-old boy on probation in the D&A unit has refused to give up his two closest friends who use drugs and alcohol. He has apparently stopped using marijuana but he has begun to drink alcohol more often. He is concerned about passing his urine screens. His two friends are very old and dear.

A 16-year-old boy whose case was just closed with Probation has been drinking and smoking weed and hanging out with peers who his mother deems to be a bad influence. When he stays overnight at his friend’s homes, he has trouble making it to work the next day. His mother is happy that Juvenile Court closed her son’s case. She admits that she did not fill the PO in on the extent of the problems; now she struggles with having the parental control necessary to keep her son free from further drug and alcohol abuse.

A 16-year-old boy is pending a Petition Hearing in Juvenile Court. He has been outside of parental control recently. He also has several close friends from which he refuses to disassociate. At least one of these friends is known to use drugs. At one point the mother told her son that if he was not home by curfew time that she would lock the doors. After doing this once or twice he has begun to come home by curfew time.

All three of these role-plays were similar in that they all involved close friends that the teenager refused to give up. Lloyd played the parent in all three role-plays and each parent who provided the role-play played their own sons. Each role-play was lively and authentic. In the last role-play the teenager quickly got up and said that he wasn’t talking any more and he stormed out of the room. For this role-play, we attempted it a second time and we were able to structure things so that the teenager did not storm out. More on that below.

Point 1: If your teenagers are going to associate with peers that use drugs, sooner or later he will use drugs too. While it can take a lot of work and backbone for a parent to address this problem, a parent can address this problem. Failure to do so is certain defeat. Therefore, the parent has nothing to loose by addressing this peer group problem.

Point 2: Let us examine why Parents often do not address this peer group problem: There are certain myths, or exaggerations involved in negative peer group problems:

A. “We can’t pick his friends for him.” True. However, parents can pick his not friends for him. In fact, when drugs and alcohol are involved parents must pick their Not Friends because this is a life-and-death situation.

B. “If he doesn’t hang out with those guys, he won’t have any friends at all.” The presumption is that he must have friends or he will suffer in some way. No, he does not have to have friends. He can temporarily go without friends. That is his choice as he can decide to choose other friends.

C. “I can’t be with him all the time, so I can’t stop him from having the friends he wants. He’ll go ahead and see him them anyway.” This one is true. However, we can still make it unacceptable that he chooses friends who use drugs and alcohol. He can sneak around, but eventually the parent will find out and at then should hold him accountable. It will take the fun out of hanging out with them and it shows the teenager that the parent DOES NOT APPROVE of the choice of friends. This disapproval is important even in cases where complete 100 percent enforcement is not possible.

D. “He is going to pick his friends no matter what I say or do.” Probably true in many cases. However, it is simply not always true. Parents usually have much more power if correctly used than they realize. We simply have to care enough about the problem to be prepared to do what is necessary to hold them accountable. This is a problem that is large enough and devastating enough to our teenager that taking a real stand is worth it. There is so much that can be done. Each teen is different and the accountability that parents choose should be appropriate for their particular teenager. Let us look at some of the possibilities.

a. Tell the Probation Officer or Intake Officer that your child is out of control. Tell your child that you hope that you can work this out with them but you are prepared to involve the Probation or Intake Officer.

b. Ground them until you believe that you can trust them not have this association with negative peers.

c. If you know when they are over a negative peer’s house and if you know where they live, go there. Collect your teenager and let his peer’s family know that it is not permissible for your teenager to be at their house. Tell them that your son has a drug problem. If he refuses to come home, take him home anyway- call the police if necessary.

d. Take all privileges away until your teen is ready to follow these new rules. TV, radio, phone, computer, allowance, and everything else that you can think of that might motivate him. Shopping can be put on hold. Even buying snacks that your teenager likes can halted until you feel that you are getting control of the situation. You can even take the door off the bedroom, remove bedroom furniture and remove other things that they like until you think you are getting the cooperation that you need. If your child has a Probation Officer or Intake Officer, insist that they become involved with this problem. Remember, if your teen continues to hang out with old friends that use drugs, he will too.

E. Warn your teenager first that “there is a new sheriff in town;” you want them to have this new information so that they can choose their path wisely. It is hard to argue with someone who lets you know as FYI that things are changing. “I wanted you to know this because it’s only fair that I warn you that things are changing around here.”

F. Only make this rule regarding unacceptable peers if you are willing to enforce it. You at least have to enforce it when it comes to your attention that your teen is still associating with old peers. If you are not willing to enforce this rule in a CONSISTANT manor, then do not make it a rule because you are wasting your time. We enforce this rule 100 % of the time (that it comes to our attention.)

G. When you teenagers who are likely to walk out of the meeting angry keep this in mind:

a. Let them know before you start that you think they might get angry and walk out. This becomes a “paradoxical task,” and we all are a bit to oppositional defiant to allow people to predict what we will do. We want them to be wrong.

b. Let them also know that if they walk out such and such will happen anyway, e.g., you will schedule the next “talk” with Probation Officer Smith or Intake Officer Jones.

Remember, when it comes to peers who abuse alcohol and drugs, you have nothing to loose by making it a big battle. If you do not, you have lost the war anyway.

Special thanks to all three parents for providing and participating in these role-plays. For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on July 23.

If you have any questions, please call 412-580-4051 or 412-247-6359 for more information.


Lloyd Woodward, Probation Officer
Drug and Alcohol Unit

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Summary of 6-11-2005 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, June 11, 2005

Nine parents representing seven families attended our last meeting on June 11th. As usual, we took a break after going around the group for introductions and updates. Then, we arranged the following role-play based on a real life scenario:

An 18 year-old boy has been in a halfway house for several months after completing the Gateway YES inpatient program. Gateway YES represents the fourth inpatient drug and alcohol inpatient program that this young man has attempted. In fact, he spent 10 months at Abraxas I and still he was not able to successfully recover from his drug problem.

The teenager just met his new Probation Officer a few months ago. He told his PO that he voluntarily came to the halfway house. He lead his PO to believe that he did not want to go home upon his discharge from Gateway YES because he knew he could not stay clean. However, his mother told the PO that when Gateway YES was considering his release the parents refused to take him home because they could tell that he had not really changed.

The young man was very upset but finally agreed to enter the halfway house. The PO told the teenager that he knew that the teenager did not really enter the halfway house “because he wanted to be there” Since then, the teen has told his mother not to speak to the PO. He also told Liz not to go to those “meetings.”

In the role-play, the young man is attempting to convince the mother that if she would tell his therapist that she thinks that he is ready to come home that it will happen. In spite of much advice at the halfway house to the contrary, he wants to return to the local high school and finish 12th grade even though he can pass his GED.

Parent1 provided the scenario and she played herself in the role-play. She chose Parent2 as her coach. Lloyd played the 18 year old and Valerie played Lloyd’s coach. Lloyd came on pretty strong with Parent1, accusing her of screwing his life over and telling her that it was her fault that he was not at home. He used some colorful language and an aggressive tone. Parent1 was tough and did not give an inch. She showed real strength of character. It is not surprising to think that the biggest reason her son is in a halfway house now is that she and her husband were strong enough not to let him come back home.

Point 1: Pay attention to Affect: The turning point in the role-play was when Parent1 told Lloyd that if he did not change his tone that the interview was over. Lloyd believed her. He suddenly managed to show some respect because if he did not he believed that Parent1 would end the interview. This was excellent. Often parents continue to talk about content, when they should be talking about affect. If the teenager is not respectful, the rule of thumb is to not talk about any of the issues until the teenager becomes respectful. If the teenager becomes respectful, continue the interview as we did in our role-play. On the other hand, if the teen refuses to show respect, point out that he is yelling, name calling, swearing, or otherwise disrespectful. Then, end the interview after a few warnings. Failure to pay attention to affect ends in loss of parental power. Remember, others treat us the way we allow ourselves to be treated. This applies to parenting and other relationships.

Point 2: Take the wind out of your teenager’s sail: Lloyd asked Parent1 several times to admit that he was doing well in the halfway house. When she seemed unwilling to do so, Lloyd was able to go into a tirade about how she has always only seen the bad things that he does, never the good. Think of an angry adolescent Rodney Dangerfield. It is usually a good idea to concede that the youth has done some good things. To admit that does not mean that you have to change your bottom line. You can still say “No.” You can say, “I am very proud of you for doing so well up here, but you know what? I don’t think that it is a good idea to come home.” You can still hold your teen accountable even though you might agree with him on some things. Sure, the teenager is bringing this up as a way to distract the parent from the main argument. However, once the parent admits that the youth has done a couple things right, it takes the wind out of his sail. The teenager cannot keep harping it about it if you have already agreed with him.

Point #3: Watch out for divide and conquer techniques: As we often say in these letters, do not allow your teenager to do that “divide and conquer” thing. If he can get his parent to agree not to tell the PO about stuff, then the teenager has strengthened his position. Meanwhile, the parent has weakened his position. How is the teenager supposed to see the parent as tough and competent if the parent allows the teen to make decisions about who they talk to and whether or not they attend certain meetings? Think about it. There is a good reason your teenager hopes you will not attend the Parent Survival Skills Training.

For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on June 25th.

If you have any questions, please call 412-580-4051 or 412-247-6359 for more information.


Lloyd Woodward, Probation Officer
Drug and Alcohol Unit

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June-25-2005 Summary
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, June 05, 2005

Four parents representing four families attended our last meeting on June 25. Probably, our attendance has dropped a bit due to summer vacations. However, it gave us a chance to have a more intimate group. As usual, we took a break after going around the group for introductions and updates. Then, we arranged the following role-play based on a real life scenario:

A 16 year-old boy was released from Ridgeview Drug Rehab about five weeks ago. A week after his release he got into trouble by slipping out the window of his home at midnight, a violation of probation for which he served a weekend at the Academy Sanction Unit. Since then, he has done very well. If fact, he has apparently made strong ties in the recovering community and enjoys the 12-step Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He has also completed Intensive Outpatient Counseling at Gateway.

This 16 year old has been looking for a summer job. His mother takes him around for applications. He has taken to wearing his clean key tags on his shoelaces of his sneakers. His mother confronted him about wearing his key tags so openly when job searching. She has told him that the prospective employer might not hire him if he sees and understands that the key tags indicate that he has a drug problem. The teen’s response is something similar to “I don’t want to work for here anyway if they feel that way about me.”

In the role-play, Parent1 who provided this scenario played her son and Lloyd played the mother. It was very authentic and some interesting points came out of it.

Point 1: Use positive reinforcement and “I feel” statements: His bonding with other recovering addicts might be the only thing that will keep him away from further drug abuse. It is a good idea for the parent to tell their son how proud they are of what he has done in recovery. “I know you are proud of yourself for building a strong recovery program. I’m so proud of you. I’m just afraid that you won’t be considered for this job if you wear those on your shoes.”

Point 2: Recognize that open advertisement of 12-step involvement is sometimes one of the best things that can happen: It may be the strongest way for an addict to save his own life. In addition, his open enthusiasm is often temporary and as he matures, he usually learns to use discretion and begins to value his anonymity.

Point #3: Be clear to your teen and to yourself about what you recommend and about what you expect. Only a handful of things are worth “going to the mattress.” As most of you probably know, this phrase originated as a mafia term meaning that the “Family” would retire to safe houses with mattresses put up against the windows and doors for protection. As parents we often have to “go to the mattress” on issues like curfew, peer groups, school attendance, drug use, etc. Other issues are “not going to the mattress issues.” Key tag wearing, small displays of attitude, haircut styles, spending money unwisely (as long as it is not on drugs or other illicit behaviors), choice of employment, girl or boyfriend choices (as long as the choice does not use drugs), choice of classes, choice of sponsor (within limits), choice of home group, etc. are examples. On the “go to the mattress issues,” we must hold our teens accountable. We must do whatever is necessary to limit these undesirable activities. However, on the “not go to the mattress issues” we only advise. As to advice, we should remember some important things.

1. Advice is cheap. We all give it and most of us have trouble taking it.

2. Teenagers have a developmental need to establish themselves as individuals apart from their parents. Drug abuse is only one of many ways that teens attempt this. Drug abuse is not acceptable. Therefore, the teen has to find some other ways of establishing an identity. Sometimes parents are not comfortable with the ways teens choose to identify themselves. As parents, we realize that this is all part of growing up.

3. Likewise, making bad decisions is part of learning. If we are allowed to learn from the bad decisions that we make we develop better coping skills.

4. Having confidence in our teen’s decision-making ability is our job as parents. Even if we think they will screw it up, we can have confidence that that is what they need to do in order to learn whatever it is that they need to learn at this stage in their life. “Well, I’m sure you’ll do fine at solving that problem, honey. If there’s anything I can do to help you with it- let me know.”

5. There is nothing wrong with advising our teen that when it comes to getting a job- discretion may be the better part of valor. Like all “not to the mattress issues,” our teenager may not be open to the advice. That is OK too. All parental advice is stored in a special place in the teenagers mind and is withdrawn throughout the teenager’s life when he most needs it.

For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on July 9.

If you have any questions, please call 412-580-4051 or 412-247-6359 for more information.


Lloyd Woodward, Probation Officer
Drug and Alcohol Unit

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Summary of 5-28-2005 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, May 28, 2005

Nine parents representing six families attended our last meeting on May 28th. It was a good turnout for a holiday weekend.

As usual, we took a break after going around the group for brief introductions and updates. Then, for the first time we a did a special type of role-play that we call The Three Minute Drill. We passed out the following real life scenario:

The 18 year-old boy has been home on Probation for about three weeks after successfully completing Ridgeview inpatient. He was released on Home Detention because on his last home-pass his parents let him leave the home unsupervised for a few hours and he failed to return home by the specified time.

He has only been off Home Detention for about a day when the mother allowed him to take the family car to a Narcotics Anonymous meeting. The mother got off work early and went to parking lot of the church where the meeting was being held. She did not see the car in the parking lot. She sat there long enough to convince herself that he did not attend the meeting.

After the meeting the son did not come straight home. He contacted his mother by phone and she told him to come straight home. He did not come straight home. He was about a half-hour late on his curfew. In addition, the son rarely calls his sponsor. He states to her that he gets nothing out of the 12-step meetings and will not go to them at all once he is off probation. In summary, he is violating his Probation Contract in several ways and he is not invested in his recovery program.

The young man does not want to be held accountable for his behavior. Even more importantly, he does not want the mother to report what happened to the Probation Officer. Also, he does not admit that he was not at the meeting; he says it got out early.

The Three Minute Drill is one continous role-play where different parents take the hot seat, changing every three minutes. Rather than start each segment of the role-play over, when a new parent takes the hot seat the role-play continues where the last segment left off. In this role-play, Lloyd played the 18 year-old and Valerie kept track of the three mintues intervals.

Point #1: As the 18 year-old son, one of Lloyd’s primary goals was to convince the parent not to tell the PO about these problems. In an effort to drive a wedge between the parent and the Probation Officer, Lloyd acused each parent of “wanting my PO to take me to Shuman.” Lloyd was not successful in getting any of these tough parents to agree not to tell the Probation Officer. Parent1 especially took a very strong approach. Instead of denying the accusation, she agreed with her son in what turned out to be a stunning reply.

Son: If you tell my PO, he’ll take me Shuman. MOM, you know what he’s like. That’s what you want isn’t it? That’s what you’ve wanted all along, to get me taken out of here.

Parent1: “Yes. If that’s what it takes to get you to straighten up, then that’s what I want.”

Point #2: All these tough parents had good body language and eye contact when talking to Lloyd. However, Parent1 chose to move her chair in closer to Lloyd so that when she confronted him it appeared more powerful in spite of the fact that she never raised her voice even one notch.

Point #3: Lloyd wanted to get a lot of credit from his parent that he had at least called home. As if the “call” made eveything all right. “You know I called you. Would I ever have called you before I went to Ridgeview?” The parents in the group did great at not letting that one call change the fact that during the call the Lloyd was told to come home immediately and he failed to do that. Then, he didn’t even make it home by curfew. Remember, when teenagers cry out for credit it is usually a good idea to give it to them. Tell them that you are glad they called. Let them know that you would have been even more worried about them if they didn’t call. However, it does not change the fact that you will hold them accountable.

Point #4: Do not confuse telling the PO with accountability. Yes, telling the PO is a type of accountability and parents should not agree to keep secrets from the Probation Officer (none of the parents in our group fell for that one.) However, the parent does not have to wait for the PO to hold the teenager accountable. Take the car keys immediately. Ground this teenager until further notice. If possible, start to drive him to his 12-step meetings and pick him up. Do this until you can start to feel like you can trust him again. As everyone in the group realized, this is not a situation where the PO would take a teenager to Shuman, and parents can often be more effective than the PO in holding their the tenager accountable.

Special thanks to the brave parents for participating in this drill and for granting permission to allow us to video tape the role-play for training purposes only. For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on June 11th.

If you have any questions, please call 412-580-4051 or 412-247-6359 for more information.


Lloyd Woodward, Probation Officer
Drug and Alcohol Unit

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Summary of 5-14-05 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thirteen parents representing ten families attended our last meeting on May 14. It was great to see some new members in the group.

As usual, we took a break after going around the group for brief introductions and updates. Then we came back to group with the following role-play.

The teenage son (played by Parent1) faces off with his mother (played by Parent2.) The son has been placed at Abraxas I and he blames the mother for everything. He says that if she had not said what she said in Court then he would not be placed at Abraxas I. If she had let him come home after Ridgeview, the Court would not have committed him to Abraxas I. The teenage son believes that it is the mother’s entire fault.

It was a good effort by Parent2 and Parent1. It was the first time we had a husband and wife face off against each other. Parent2 was firm and did not allow Parent1 to manipulate her with GUILT. Of course, that was Parent1’s primary weapon. Parent1 kept harping on this refrain, “Why can’t you just admit that you put me here?” Parent2 pointed out that Ridgeview staff and Lyn Redick also recommended Abraxas I. Parent1 responded, “If you didn’t tell Lyn Redick and Ridgeview what you told them they wouldn’t have wanted me to go to Abraxas. It’s all your fault. This place isn’t going to help me.”

Point #1: Often the dialogue becomes dead-ended:

Mother: “You put yourself here.”
Son: “No, you put me here.”
Mother: “When are you going to wake up and take responsibility for your own behavior?”
Son: “Why can’t you admit that it’s your fault I’m up here? You know if you hadn’t said all that bad stuff about me in Court I wouldn’t be here! You just don’t want me at home.”
Mother: “You put yourself at Abraxas by failing at Ridgeview.”
Son: “The people up here even say I don’t belong here- I should be home! But you just don’t want me!”

Note the difference when a parent models the “taking responsibility” approach.

Mother: “You blame me, you think it’s my fault that you are at Abraxas.”
Son: “Yeah. You put me here- you know you did.”
Mother: “Yes, I had a lot to do with it.”
Son: “A lot to do with it my as&. If it wasn’t for the stuff you said in Court, I’d be home now.”
Mother: “Yes. You are right. I did everything I could do to see that you get the help you need. And I’d do it all again for you.”
Son: “Help? This place can’t help me. I don’t belong up here. Even the people up here say that I don’t need this place. I should be home.”
Mother: “I think you should be home too.”
Son: “Then why did you put me up here?”
Mother: “I’m afraid you’ll kill yourself with drugs- that’s why.”

Point #2: Now that the mother has taken responsibility for her role, it opens the door for the son to begin to take responsibility for his actions. If the above conversation were to continue…

Mother: “You know, at some point I’m hoping that you can learn to take responsibility for your behavior.”
Son: “What are you talking about? I always take responsibility for my shi%.”
Mother : “Oh, I think you are busy blaming everyone else.”
Son: “Why, because I blame you for putting me in this Hell Hole?”
Mother: “Sure- that’s part of it. You always see yourself as a victim.”
Son: “Well, you know you put me here and I should be home.”
Mother: “There- you just did it again. You are a victim. And you can always find someone to blame for the stuff that happens to you. You choose to do drugs. You choose to break the law. In addition, you refused to accept any responsibility for your behavior when you were at Ridgeview. That is why Lynn Redick, Ridgeview, the Intake Officer and I all worked to put you here.”
Son: “That sucks. You just don’t want me.”
Mother: “I want you- but I want you when you can learn to take responsibility for your own actions and when you can quit blaming others for your problems. And as far as I’m concerned you need to learn to do that before you come home- no matter how long that takes.”

Clearly, in this last example we can see that guilt will not work to move this mother. Nor can the conversation be dead-ended because she will admit that she worked to give him more treatment. Now the mother is going to label his victim stance behavior in real time as it happens. Therefore, the son discovers that his manipulations will fail because not only does mother not work to get him out sooner (because she feels guilty) but also she wants him to stay until he can take ownership for his problems. No matter how long that takes. This becomes a clear message to this young man that he had better get to work at Abraxas and not waste anytime.

For anyone that was not able to attend the meeting this week, we missed you. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again at the meeting on May 28.

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Summary of 2-14-05 Meeting
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Monday, February 14, 2005

Eleven parents representing eight families attended our last meeting on February 19. We were happy to see one first-timer and always glad to see so many regulars keep coming back.

We spent the first hour catching up with each family’s situation. After that, we launched into the following role-play.

An 18-year old is no longer on probation. The contract that the parent set up with the young man prior to his Probation ending calls for random drug testing, or at least called for drug testing by the parents if they have reason to believe that the teenager might be using. When the two actors playing the parents asked “S.” for a drug test he balked.

The parents persisted, even when “S.” wanted to change the subject into one of “trust,” rather than one of compliance and responsibility. “S.” wanted to know the reason that his parents were suspicious and he clicked off a litany of things that he had done to earn their trust since the Court released him from Abraxas I. Due to the persistence of the parents, however, “S.” finally agreed to a urine screen. The parent playing the father insisted on accompanying his son into the bathroom. When the two returned to the role-play, The parent playing the father informed his wife that that he caught “S.” attempting to put tap water in the urine cup instead of urine. At this point “S.” all but admitted that he would have been dirty.

Then, “S.” wanted to know what they were going to do about it. He refused to accompany his parents to a rehab for evaluation. As the role-play ended, the parents seemed unsure how exactly to proceed. One good thing, however, was that due to the diligence of the parents in insisting on the urine screen they had uncovered important information and got the issue out. Knowing what actions to take now that the information is out is the next step. It can be a different action depending on the situation. Here are some things to keep in mind.

1. Parents must have a zero tolerance level for dug use. Eventually, if the teen continues to use he must live somewhere else.

2. If the teenager is unwilling to be drug tested and unwilling to accompany parents to a rehab for evaluation (as was the case with this role-play) then the parents know that the youth probably will continue to use.

3. At this point, consider calling the local police and have the youth’s car and/ or room searched. If they find drugs or paraphernalia, the police should arrest. Do not bail them out of jail. Jail is often the best place for the active addict. If the police do not find anything the parents still will have sent a strong message to their teenager.

4. Whether or not the child is cooperative or remorseful, removing driving privileges is one of the first things that should be done. At any point where you have reason to believe that your teenager is using drugs, you know that a car is simply too dangerous. In fact, removing a car even for a short period is a good idea whenever irresponsible behavior rears its ugly head. Driving is optional, not necessary. Why do we want to put irresponsible teenagers behind the wheel of a car?

5. There should be no money given for anything unless absolutely necessary and then the parent should pay for what the teenager needs rather than giving actual money.

6. Take other things away. Things that you as a parent know are motivators. Examples are TV, telephone, mobile phones, game systems, and doors to bedrooms, beds and even unnecessary clothes they may like to wear. Remember, it is not the sanction levied that is going to make the change, but the message that is sent with a sanction is important. It says, “it is not acceptable that you use drugs. Period.”

7. When the teenager is able to be honest about his drug use, take him or send him to a clinic such as Gateway for an assessment. If he is honest and cooperative he will tell you what, when, how, and with whom this relapse happened. People, places and things need to be looked at all over again.

8. One of the things that I learned though this role-play is that if the parent makes sure that the teenager puts into his After Probation Contract that he will submit to random urine screens, then that helps alleviate the whole issue of “why don’t you trust me.” If it has been clearly stated in the After Probation Contract that there will be random urine screens, and then a parent asks for one, it is a very bad sign if the teenager replies “why don’t you trust me?” On the other had if the contract states that parents will do urine screens if they have reason to be suspicious, then that leaves the door open for exactly that kind of smoke screen to be thrown up later.

Thanks, to all three parents who participated in the role-play. It was really a composite role-play from all three families. Acting on the problem, now that it is out in the open, is the next step.


Lloyd Woodward
Aftercare Specialist Probation Officer
(412) 247-6365

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