Quote of the Week

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

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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