Quote of the Week


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My mother frowned, her eyes narrowing.

Who outranks whom," I said grudgingly.

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

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

There was only one answer to that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



Teen: What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mom: Well yes.

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

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

Teen: [glaring.]

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

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

Mom: It's tough.

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

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

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

Mom: We are saying somethings differently.

Teen: Yeah, a lot of things.

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

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

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

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

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

Teen: That's what I'm saying.

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

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

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

Teen: It doesn't!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LETTING GO IS NOT NEGLECT
Posted by:Rocco--Saturday, February 07, 2015

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I vowed to learn from the mistakes of my Uncle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is nothing further from the truth.

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

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

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

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

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

© 2012 Addiction Journal - powered by WordPress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Type your summary here Type rest of the post here

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

winter advisory icy roads Type rest of the post here

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

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

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

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

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

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








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

Congratulations to all!


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other home pass posts:

Home for the Holidays by Rocco and Sally

Scoring the Home Pass by Lloyd

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

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

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

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

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The Dangers of Sizzurp
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Doctors are warning of a cough syrup concoction called "sizzurp" that young people are abusing to get high. The addictive mix is made using soda, candy (often Jolly Ranchers), and prescription cough syrup.  Also known as “purple drank,” “syrup” and “lean,” the mix has been glorified in songs and internet videos.

“This is a very dangerous drug,” says Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It can lead to seizures and essentially lead you to stop breathing.”

Thanks for sharing this information, Wilma!  (Wilma said that her son's friends post about sizzurp.)

Click here to read more.




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Finding Hope ~ written by Jim
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Despite life’s everyday trials and tribulations, Cheryl and I (Jim) have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Our entire family is enjoying good health. Our granddaughter (who became the glue in repairing several family “tears” that addiction had ripped open) is now a beautiful toddler. Our third son, a Marine, is safe on U.S. soil for this holiday season.

In particular, we are so blessed our son, Andy surpassed his thirty-ninth month of sobriety. We are living a reality that at one point we would not have allowed ourselves to even dream it would come to pass. When your addict emerges from the darkness of addiction, everyday is a blessing.

For anyone reading this that has an addict still struggling, remember to just work to keep him/her alive for another day. Even in the face of overwhelming despair, there is always hope…always!

I saw recently saw this poem online and thought it was appropriate for the journey of an addict and hope.

Recovery Poem

There's a time I remember, A time I had Fun
No stress and no worries, When I was Young
Many moments of joy, Hanging out by the Sea
Many moments of Freedom, Many places to Be

As I grew Older, Some friends that I Met
We all started Using, For that I Regret
As Time went by Quickly, I used & Drank More
I soon Realized, It's the Booze I Adore

Problems with Family
And friends all the Time
My pain and my suffering
These faults are all Mine
The fun I once Had
Seems so distant and Far
My reality of Life
Was a lost distant Star

My pride and my Ego, So shameful to Be
This life I Created, Just wasn't Me
Relapse and Rehabs, Were right in my Sight
My future I Created, Did not look that Bright

My soul wanted Out, Like a cough from my Breath
Jails, Institutions, And then there is Death
I woke up one Day, To get the help that I Need
To start from the Beginning, Just like a Seed

To Grow more in Spirit, Have faith and I'll See
The true unseen Beauty, That lies inside Me
There's a time I Remember, A time I had Fun
I want that all Back, It has to be Done

With hard work and much Effort, The future I See
My reward for not Using, HAS NOW SET ME FREE ! ! !


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Holiday Celebration - Dec 6, 2014
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, November 23, 2014

The PSST 11th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration will be held on Dec 6, 2014 at our Wilkinsburg meeting.  Invitees include all PSST parents (both current attendees and alumni), in addition to all Wesley Spectrum therapists and Juvenile Probation staff who have been part of the PSST family.  

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


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I Feel Alive
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Feel Alive

I feel alive when I want to die.
The drug enters my veins,
I can fly.
Heroin turns life around in the blink
of an eye.
Steals your confidence, worth, dreams,
your future.
It’s like torture.
Everything I said I’d never do.
Break all my morals, so do you.
Whenever you feel like it’s under control,
the voice says “I’m not done.”
And you’re screwed.
First thing on your mind
when you wake.  It’ll have your skin
crawling until the next hit.
It’ll turn you insane,
fill you with pain.
They say it’s progressive, sometimes fatal.

I don’t know if I’m strong enough for the battle.


Torrian R.


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Role-Play Saturday - Sat, Nov 22
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Role-Play Saturday . . . coming Saturday, Nov 22nd!

November has 5 Saturdays, so that means 2 Saturdays in a row without PSST, & that's a long time to go without great PSST support.  In addition, there are meetings where we just don't have as much time as we'd like to spend on role-plays, practicing our PSST skills.  Here's our chance!



There will be a special PSST meeting, focused on role-plays, scheduled for Saturday, Nov 22nd at the Wilkinsburg Probation Office.  The meeting will be held at the normal time, 9am-11:30am.  This is the regular meeting site where we hold our first PSST meeting each month; the address is 907 West St., Wilkinsburg, PA 15221.

Hope to see you there!!

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Won't you give me three steps, gimme three steps mister...
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, November 08, 2014


This article was originally written and posted on the blog on Nov 10, 2009, and is just as relevant today. As we discussed in today's PSST meeting, 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.

Won't you give me three steps, gimme three steps mister......gimme three steps towards the door! The method that we often cover at PSST is three simple steps. Keeping things simple is one of the primary goals of skills training at PSST. Some say that these are not really three steps- but what we hope is that you will keep three things in mind when you interact with your oppositional defiant, drug abusive, willful teenager.

The First Step is to agree with only a part of what they are saying; however, for the part that you have chosen to agree with - agree wholeheartedly with it. In other words, don't just say a quick agreeing statement followed by a "but" because that "but" negates the agreeing part.

If you are reading this and thinking, "Sometimes there is nothing that I can agree with" then I challenge you to look that statement over again. There is practically always something that you can affirm, even if it's the fact that your teenager has not lost their sense of humor. I refer back to one thing that Deb Cohen said at our last PSST, that interventions are best built around the strength of a teenager (strength-based) and when you find a small part- or a large part- of what a teenager says that you can build on, you are off to a good start at formulating an effective response.

The Second Step is to put your spin on the agreement. Turn it into your own talking point. Twist- not in a disrespectful or facetious manner but in a matter-of-fact way, just put your spin on it. We will give examples below. When thinking of this- it may be that the First Step and the Second Step are really one step because the part of the thing that you are agreeing with is often the same as the "twist." It may be that the reframing that we are looking for is really formed by the choice of what part of the thing you will agree with.


The Third Step is to hold your ground. This is often aided by starting with the phrase "nevertheless" or "regardless." These two words are truly power-words. Other words can be used; however, these two serve the purpose of keeping the speaker on track without making a judgment. For example, one can say "whatever" and that would also serve the purpose of keeping the speaker on track, but it carries a negative connotation or judgment of the thing that the other speaker was trying to use as a distraction. Just saying nevertheless and regardless does not hint at any judgment of the distraction- it just keeps the speaker on track. Another way to say it might be, "Even if that's true," and go back to the talking point but it's probably easier just to say regardless or nevertheless.


The door: I liked the analogy of "Gimme three steps, gimme three steps Mister, give me three steps towards the door" because we should not forget that these little interactions do not have to go on and on and on. Say it- mean it- and move on. Don't linger too long in an unproductive interaction because by lingering you give the impression that this issue is still up for debate. An exception to this is the technique we cover at PSST where you say, "Ask me again, ask me again." This is not really a contradiction however because when you move to the "ask me again, ask me again" maneuver, the subject is truly as closed as if you had simply just walked away.


Fluidity: We notice at PSST when we are role-playing this technique that we are often going back to step one. That is because teenagers continue to change what they are saying. When they see that they can't manipulate the parent one way- they quickly move to another angle. At that point it is possible to agree quickly with some part of the new angle- twist it- and land with a nevertheless just the same way. In fact, it's good if the teen keeps changing the angle because it is a demonstration that they get it that the original angle is closed. Eventually there will be no angles left.


Example:


Son: Dad I need twenty bucks to go to the movies tonight- you can't really get in for less, after you buy popcorn and soda.


Dad: I know!!!! It's ridiculous how expensive it is to go to the movies. In fact, it cost more for snacks sometimes than you paid to get in!


Son: Right, so can I have the money?


Dad: No, I'm not giving you twenty bucks for the movies tonight Son.


Son: Why not?


Dad: I'm not feeling it tonight Son. I have twenty bucks but I don't want to let go of it.


Son: That sucks- you are always so stingy. I mean I'm not saying you're the cheapest dad in the world, but you're up there in the top ten! And you know for sure that I'm not trying to buy drugs or anything and you still won't give me the money.


{This last comment allows two choices for what to agree with. You can go with the "yes I'm cheap" or you can go with the "I know you're not trying to buy drugs." The first one always works while the second one only works if the teen has been doing some good work on his recovery." }


Dad: I think you are exactly right Son- I trust that you would spend the money at the movies and it didn't even cross my mind that you might spend it on drugs. I know you did that two months ago when I gave you money- but I think you grown up a lot since then, and you seem so much more involved in your recovery now that I trust that you would not be buying drugs with the money.


{The twist here is to mention in a non-threatening way that in fact it was only two months ago that this young man did misuse money. Sometimes the twist is mild and it only allows you to mention something in a positive way but it still brings it up and puts it squarely on the table.}


Son: Right! I'm going to meetings every day- I call my sponsor, I go to my home group- so I deserve to go to the movies!


Dad: You deserve much in my book! My goodness- you've done some great stuff. And you're showing a lot more maturity- I mean hecks- just a month ago, when you didn't get your own way you had a really tough time with that- temper tantrums- and all kinds of stuff. But now you seem much more able to accept "No" for an answer- I think that's one of the biggest things that I've seen change in you.


{the agreement is that he has done great but the twist is that he is much more able to accept not having his own way. Now if he does not accept not having his own way in regards to the $20, he has just proved that he has not changed- it's up to him but the twist provides productivity}

Son: Great. So give me the money?


Dad: Aaaa- no- regardless Son, I'm just not generous today. Maybe I'm a bit on the cheap side like you said.


Son: So, when you see me suddenly relapse cause I'm getting so frustrated what will you think then? You'll probably wish you just gave me the money huh?


Dad: You're right again. I'll feel horrible if you relapse. I'd be scared for you and very disappointed too - especially cause it seems like you're really trying to stay clean this time.


{He is threatening us with a relapse- this is not a good sign as to where he is with his recovery; however, we will jump back to step one and it's easy as pie to agree at any time that a relapse is horrible and, yes, we will feel bad about it when it happens- then we twist by repeating what we already said that he seems to be doing things right this time and that would really make a relapse sad. By twisting in this direction we are taking this threat of a relapse to the bank and this is not where our young man wants us to go- now read down where we continue to twist this threat of relapse into some uncomfortable territory]

Pause


Dad: Sounds like you're really worried about relapsing.


Pause


Dad: I think that's something else that you do differently. Before- you never talked about urges and relapse prevention. But now I hear you being concerned about relapsing- you're talking about it- and you seem to know that you're not out-of-the woods with your recovery. You are often walking a very thin line between relapse and staying clean- and at least you're aware of it and you're talking about it. Good for you, Son.


{Now our twist has him walking a very thin line. This is not a person that we are going to hand $20 bucks too but we don't have to say that because we weren't giving up the money anyway but he will see that we are turning this threat back at him and he is going to have to try to do some damage control or back pedaling with this threat- which is fine- we hope that he does get off the threat thing}

Son: I'm not going to use Dad!


Dad: Oh I'm sorry. I thought that's just what you were saying- that you were worried about relapsing. [This is often the case with reframing or twisting. We are helping him to see what he is saying.]


Son: I'm just asking you how you'd feel if I relapsed because you didn't give me the 20 bucks that's all.


Dad: No matter the reason Son, I'll feel terrible if you relapse- like I said, I'll be worried that you might die and I'll feel disappointed. But, you're saying that you are NOT going to relapse over the 20$ so I guess I don't have to worry about that today then? I feel a bit better now that you put it that way!

{rather than argue about whether or not he threatened to relapse, we just go with the new statement instead and agree with that- in other words, back to step one}
Son: I'm not gonna use! [Looking angry] But I meant how would you feel if you thought that a relapse was your fault?


{He can't completely let go of that threat so we agree and twist it again}

Dad: You're right on the money with that Son! I'd feel worse even. In fact, I've really asked myself that a lot.


Son: What do you mean?


Dad: Well, you know, as a parent it's hard to wonder if I was a better parent if you wouldn't have become an addict. Like, you know I used to let you get what you wanted no matter what it was, cause I didn't want to see you have a tantrum. You know what I'm talking about. And I look back and I ask myself if that wasn't a large part of the problem- that I just didn't want to deal with you flipping out, breaking stuff, yelling at me, threatening me and stuff like that. Well, I'm not saying I caused your addiction, but I could have made better decisions and for goodness sakes I could have said "No" to you more often. Well, I don't know if you're noticing, but I'm working on that today.


Son: Yeah, so this is just you saying "no" for the sake of saying "no."


{that is so perfect we can simply agree and not bother to twist it. He expects us to deny that we are saying no for the sake of saying no but really it is part of the reason that we are saying no so just agree and move on.}

Dad: Yes! I think that is a good enough way to put it.


Son: [Glaring!]


Dad: listen, I got to run- if there's something else we can chat later OK? Call me if you need me Son. Oh, and I am proud of the changes you're making in your life- you know that, right?


{he's not coming at us with any new angles, so we take the opportunity to move towards the door}

Son: yeah.


It may appear as though this three-step thing takes a lot of thinking fast on the feet. Well, it does and it doesn't. Since the teenager keeps coming at you from different angles it does take some thinking; however, the themes keep repeating. After a while, you've heard them all and your responses stay the same. Once you've practised this with your teenager you'll begin to see how these themes repeat and you'll be ready with your agreement/twists. Then follow that up with a nevertheless or regardless if appropriate and head for the door!

Dad: later!

Note: The picture used is from Wikipedia. This post references the lyrics from Gimme Three Steps by Lynyrd Skyrnrd. No profit is made off of this picture or off of the link to the lyric and is only used here with reference given to source.


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The Beacon
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, October 25, 2014

I remember coming to PSST for the first time almost 4 years ago, worried about so many things.  These were dark times for our family, and at the time, we could see no light at the end of the tunnel.  One of the worst fears I had, after all we had been through with our son, and how much heartache might still be ahead of us, will he tear our family apart?  And can I – will I – still be able to love him?  Looking around the room, I asked myself, what about all of these parents?  Many of their children had been in multiple placements, physically attacked their parents, damaged their property, stolen money or property from their family, relapsed multiple times, been arrested by the police, and had generally put their parents through hell and back.  Can they – do they – still love their children?


What have I seen in our PSST group since then?  The love is so fierce, that it’s strong enough to knock you over.  Clearly, there is a lot of pain and heartbreak wrapped up in that love.  So many sleepless nights, gut-wrenching confrontations, and bitter tears shed.  We don’t get to experience joy and pride in quite the same way that other parents do.  We have changed our expectations – we are proud when our child earns his GED, or sticks with a new job for more than a month.  We are proud when our child accepts the consequences for violating a home contract, is clean for 30 days without a relapse, or makes a conscious decision to go back into rehab.  It’s certainly not what we expected or hoped for as parents, and it’s definitely not what we were prepared for.    

I still remember PSST parents Jim & Cheryl dealing with a very public and troubling situation with their son.  It would have been so easy for them to skip that week’s PSST meeting, but they came and shared their story.  I was so glad that they did, because their strength in the face of adversity was knock-you-over inspiring.  What hit me the most was Cheryl’s final comment – no matter what their son did and how much he disappointed them, even if he ended up on death row, they would still be his parents who would care for him and love him forever. 

We don’t really expect our children to see, understand, or appreciate the depth and commitment of our love for them.  Most “normal” children don’t either.  However, what is special for our children is that our love for them has survived crushing pain, and our commitment to them is forged in repeated disappointment and fear for their very lives.  And if they really caught a glimpse of it, they might think we are crazy, foolish, or just plain idiotic for caring so much.  Don’t get me wrong, we may get so angry with our children at times that we can hardly bear to see them, and at some point, we may even decide that it’s not good for anyone involved for them to live with us. 


But the love is there, shining brightly – a strong, unwavering beacon for them should they someday see it and decide to follow it home.

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Credits

This layout (edited by Ken) made by and copyright cmbs.