Quote of the Week

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

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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