Quote of the Week

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

North Hills Town Hall Meeting 4/10/2007
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, March 31, 2007

The North Hills School District, in cooperation with the Alliance Against Drugs, will host a town hall meeting to discuss drug use and its effects on adolescents and their families from 7 – 9 p.m. on Tuesday, April 10, 2007, at the North Hills Senior High auditorium.

“No community is immune to teenage drinking and other drug use,” Dr. Joe Goodnack, superintendent, said. “If we are to truly make a difference, we as an educational community must stand united against teenage drinking and other drug-use.”

The evening will focus on current drug issues facing teens, how the drug culture has changed, the importance of early detection, and what the community can do to make a difference. Parents as well as students are encouraged to attend.

KDKA reporter Marty Griffin will moderate a panel discussion. Panelists include school administrators, the local magistrate and law enforcement officers, district attorney’s office representative, a juvenile probation officer, student assistance specialists, drug and alcohol counselors, and a member of the Alliance Against Drugs.

For more information, contact Debbie Kehoe, executive director of the Alliance Against Drugs at 724-612-5554.

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Thursday, March 29, 2007

Every member in the group lost someone this week. The loss wasn't the result of a lack of trying, a lack of caring or a lack of loving. Take some time this week to recover, count your blessings and work on your resolve and tenacity to help our children beat this terrible disease.

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Live Drug Forum on KDKA radio
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Alliance hosted the second annual Drug Forum with Marty Griffin today. This event was live on KDKA radio from 9:00 to Noon broadcasting from the Orchard Hill Church, Wexford. Juvenile Probation and Coffeehouse Nation were there to share their stories of hope and success.

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Role-play: Parent helps to prevent relapse.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, March 20, 2007

We have all learned a great deal about the signs of relapse. As Mary pointed out, overconfidence and anger can be signs. Home Alone hit on a lot of them, including the fact that a relapse happens in the teenager's mind before he actually takes "the first one." Hanging out with old friends and attending fewer meetings can be signs. But what is a parent to do to help?

Preparation can often be the most helpful thing. For example, what was the plan that your teenager came up with while he was in the rehab? Or what plan did he come up with before the "stinkin thinkin" set in? Stick to that plan, even if your teen no longer believes that he needs to do that. Don't be distracted from the recovery plan by the attitude of your teenager. Yes, we wish that he always kept that "recovery high" that he had when he first came home from the rehab, but since addiction is "cunning, baffling, and powerful," it is often the case that we don't get our parent-wishes. In general, don't be distracted. Insist that your teen follows the plan.

Dad: Hey, can we talk a minute?

Son: What's up, Yo?

Dad: Well, I've noticed that you only went to a few meetings last week.

Son: Dad- [making a face of disgust] I know when I need to go to a meeting!

Dad: Yeah, but we agreed on a meeting a day for the first 90 days. Then we said we'd talk.

Son: You know you really kill me. You really do. You think cause you went to a few of Lloyd's meetings, and a couple of Gateway family meetings that you're some kind of expert on addiction! You probably think you're going to write a book about your experiences, don't ya?

Dad: Well, I don't know about that...

Son: [cutting off his father] Well, don't quit your day job! I think after what I've been though, I know how to stay clean. You never even been addicted you said. So, you don't really know, do ya?

Dad: Well, no but...

Son: [cutting off his father] Listen Dad, I know you worry, but my sponsor said something that's important. And HE knows about recovery, cause he's in it- you know what I mean? Well, he says that you and Mom are trying to work my recovery for me. And that just makes me angry. In fact, if anything THAT makes me want to shoot dope! So, you should back off, Yo!


Son: Anyway, you think I would ever do anything to make me go back into rehab? You think I want to get sent away? You're crazy! I hated that place! I will NEVER do dope again! I'm to smart for that shyt now man- no way! You think I'm stupid?

Dad: Ok, ok, ok, let's back up here can we? Just hold your horses [dad puts up the traffic sign for stopping traffic].

Dad: First of all, no I do not think that you are stupid. Far from it. Second, you are right, I am not an addict and I don't know a lot of stuff about it- [laughing] AND I’m not starting my book yet so YOU back off, Yo!

Son: O.K.- that's good! [struggles to put up a smile- but it's not working as he is too upset to relax].

Dad: Son, do you know who taught me the most important stuff about addicitions?

Son: Abe Twerski, when he gave that lecture at Gateway?

Dad: Ooh- that was a good lecture- but no not him. Not at all.

Son: Who then? I know you're gonna tell me anyway! [Rolling eyes].

Dad: You did. When you were in rehab.

Son: [Looks surprised]

Dad: Yes, son in rehab you taught me that you need to go to a meeting a day for at least the first 90 days. And you taught me that you need to go to those meetings regardless of whether you feel like going.


Dad: And you taught me that you need to cut yourself off from all the people that you used with. Remember that list that you came up with? That list of people that you need to stay away from? Well I learned a lot from you coming up with that list- you really gave that list a lot of thought. And I was surprised at how many names were on it! I was proud of how much work you put into that. Well, I see that you have started to hang with Denny. [pause] and Son, we both know he is on that list.

Son: Ahhh Dad! He don't use no more. He's goes to meetins now!

Dad: Nevertheless, he is on the list- and he is someone you shot dope with.

Son: You think I'm stupid- I will never do that junk again, man, you make me mad talking like this - [getting louder] you trying to work my program for me!

Dad: Regardless, we are sticking with the plan that you came up with in the rehab. We are not changing plans now. Son, trust me on this one; we ARE NOT changing plans now.

Son: But, even my sponsor says...

Dad: Regardless, we are following the plan we came up with in treatment. It's non-negotiable.

Son: I'm not going to all those meetings anymore, Dad. I mean- I'll go when I need to go that's all. And Denny's not a bad guy like you think- he's my friend - and you can't pick my friends for me neither!

Dad: [moving closer with strong eye contact the father says slowly and softly] That is unacceptable, Son.

Son: You can't make me do that stuff!

Dad: Son, we can do a lot- and if you want, your mother and I will discuss with you what we are prepared to do. But maybe it's enough for now if you just trust me- trust that I am prepared to do whatever I need to do to see that you follow the plan that you came up with in rehab. That's all.

Son: [walks off in anger, muttering obsenities]

Dad: [ Lets him go.]

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, March 18, 2007

In a previous meeting we talked about how easy it was to see the signs of a relapse when looking backward in time and how difficult it was to see them as they are occurring. Looking back on a relapse in your family, please leave a comment on some of the signs you saw before the relapse occurred. Also, you may want to check out the relapse information on the HBO site.

There is a lot of information on the HBO site. I plan on spending some time there.

The cartoon is from this months Readers Digest.

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Friday, March 16, 2007

I met Melanie Donati ( RN, BSN melanie.donati@reckittbenckiser.com)at an Alliance meeting. Melanie is a Clinical Liaison for Reckitt Benckiser Pharmaceuticals who manufactures Suboxone a treatment for opiate addiction. Attached to this article is a complete patients guide to the drug. There still seems to be a lot of mystery surrounding the use of Suboxone and I have heard all kind of rumors (like it is very expensive compared to Methadone and your insurance won’t cover it - I checked and my insurance covers it for 90 days). I had the chance to ask Melanie a few questions and she was gracious enough to reply and allow me publish them here.

Question: When can you / should you start Suboxone?

Answer: Suboxone therapy can be initiated at any point in recovery. Now that Suboxone awareness is growing it is becoming the first-line treatment of opioid dependence. A patient can certainly be switched from Methadone to Suboxone but they have to be weaned down to about 30 mg of Methadone before the transition can be a smooth one. The biggest factor to this point in deciding when or how to utilize Suboxone has been the number of available providers. Fortunately this number is increasing everyday so the difficulty of finding a provider is becoming much less. Also, many Methadone clinics detox centers, and behavioral health facilities are incorporating Suboxone into their treatment protocols so the availability is much higher now. There is no set rule for when Suboxone is appropriate in opioid dependent patients. It basically boils down to awareness that it is available, finding a provider to initiate treatment, and the patient be willing to try the therapy. It most certainly can be the first course of action. It is indicated for 16 years and older as opposed to Methadone, which is approved for 18 years and older.

Question: I have heard that Suboxone is sold on the street and abused?

Answer: Regarding the street value. This topic comes up a lot and I can tell you that the street value is minimal. With Suboxone there is no high or euphoria as opposed to opioids and Methadone. So, people do not take Suboxone and get high. The street value, which exists, is somewhat unique. If someone is high and they are soon to be in-between fixes and are concerned about becoming “dope sick”, they will buy a Suboxone to prevent that sickness until they find their next drug. Suboxone fills the opioid receptors and prevents withdrawal from occurring until they find their drug of choice. Also, this can be the case whether or not they are trying to get well. If someone is trying to find a treatment provider or a program to accept them the will have to keep taking their drug until that time to prevent withdrawal so Suboxone plays a role until they find their own provider. There is also the person who does not want to get better yet and also does not want to be “dope sick” so they will substitute Suboxone in between fixes. The only way to prevent street sales is for physicians to be very, very cautious on their prescribing habits. If the patients are only getting exactly what they need pills won’t end up on the street. Because the patients need the pills they will not sell what they need themselves. However, if a person received too many pills there is always the possibility for street sales.

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First North Hills PSST: Thanks for your support!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, March 10, 2007

Valerie and I wish to thank all ten parents who helped make this meeting a success. Half of the Parents had already attended our Eastern Probation Office Meetings, and the other half were first-time members.

Candid exchanges between group members set a tone for supportive confrontation in this meeting. Especially, Parent after parent affirmed the need to focus on the drug problem if your teenager is still using. Other issues such as education, legal problems, health, MUST take a secondary role if the teenager is still abusing drugs. It is only natural that we allow ourselves to become distracted by these other important issues, because if there was no drug problem that High School Diploma, upcoming Court case, Hepatitis-C, or psychiatric problem WOULD of course be the main issue. Nevertheless, your teen cannot get that Diploma if he is dead. What can a parent do if their teenager is still abusing drugs?

The first step is to admit that your teenager is still abusing drugs and THAT none of the other problems can successfully be addressed as long as is active in his addiction.

The second step is to TAKE AN ACTION. Do not just wait it out. Chances are good that the longer you wait the more difficult the situation will become. Also, let us remember that this is a life-threatening disease.

Teens cannot hear what we are saying. This goes double when they are still active in the addiction. Therefore, the only way to SEND MESSAGES to them is by taking an action. For example, putting a teenager back in inpatient if possible is taking an action. Yes, we may have doubts that it will do any good, but we must take what actions are available to us. Putting a teen that has relapsed back into inpatient is not perhaps the only option, and may not be an option in some cases, but it does fit the bill in terms of SENDING A MESSAGE and TAKING AN ACTION. Figure out what actions are appropriate, along with your partner if you have one, confront your teen, and take an ACTION.

The Third Step is not to become sidetracked by other issues. Even the fact that you cannot insure that any ACTION you take will help can become a distraction. "Why am I going to put him back in inpatient, he already has been there and it didn't work." Yes, that may true although that is difficult to know. However, once again, SOME ACTION is required. Some parents have contracted with their teenager, that if he uses he must leave the home. If that is your contract with your teenager, then you must follow though. It depends on the age of your child, what drugs he uses, whether or not you have a Probation Officer or ACT 53 case, as to whether that might be a good contract to make.

The Fourth Step is to fine-tune the plan. If your child has gone into rehab, placement, or jail, then you have an ideal opportunity to get a strong commitment from your teen to do the following.

1. Attend 12-step meetings daily.

2. Develop a "we" of the program that includes sponsor, home group, and calling recovering peers each day. Chapters can and have been written about developing the “we” of the program.

3. Divorce old friends that represent ties back to the substance. Keep in mind that most relapses can be reduced to two forces at play. Backing off from recovering people ("those meetings don't help") and moving closer to people who use drugs ("he is my friend- he isn't a bad person, he doesn't even smoke Crack anymore.") We are NOT saying that anyone is a bad person. We are saying that your teenager's old friends are bad for your teenager and your teenager is bad for his old friends. They will want to use drugs again if they spend time together.

4. Agree to being drug tested WHENEVER parents choose to drug test.

5. Attend outpatient treatment and follow the therapist's recommendations.

6. Do not become distracted by the accusation of "You're trying to work my program for me." This is not the case here. You are negotiating a plan for recovery. If you do not come in with high expectations, then you are missing the big opportunity. This is mere negotiation.

7. However, it may be that your teenager is going to feel like you are working his recovery for him. Ok, agree with that premise if it makes it easier to move the discussion forward. “Yes, I am working your recovery somewhat. When you can work it yourself, I will be glad to take a vacation from working it for you. Until then, if you want to live here in this home, you will allow me to guide your recovery. Or you can work your own program somewhere else.” If he does not want to live with you, what are his other options? Perhaps he can work his own recovery somewhere else, like a group home, or a halfway house for recovering addicts. Guess what? Those places are going to have expectations about working a program too, and they won't be swayed by charges of "working their program for them." It is possible to be too involved in your teenager’s recovery, however that is the stuff of another post, or perhaps readers can leave comments on that issue.

8. This is an opportunity because if your teenager refuses or is reluctant to commit to conditions such as these, you should reconsider allowing him back home, or if he is at home you should consider what other options besides living at home that he may have. If we allow our teens to be active in their addiction and continue to live at home with no consequences or accountability, then we ENABLE them. We provide them with a base-of-operations from which they can easily seek the ways and means to abuse drugs. What are your other options? If he knows that you are serious about this plan, he may realize that he wants to live at home and he must comply.

The Role-play: check back later this week, time permitting, I will try to recap the role-play.

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Breaking a few eggs: (Summary of 3-3-07 Meeting.)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Our meeting at the Eastern District Probation Office this last Saturday featured a lively discussion, a spirited role-play, and some homemade Lady Fingers brought by one of our members that ARE TO DIE FOR. About 10 parents attended. There was much optimism laced with caution. One parent put it something like this: “Things have been going great this year, but I could go home from this meeting and find that my son has relapsed again.”

The Role-play: We all know the experience of being around someone who may react badly if we say the “wrong” things. We walk on eggshells. We constantly measure the effect that our words may have before we utter them. Like an overly cautious carpenter we measure twice, three or four times the impact that our words may have- so that we only have to cut once.

The Scenario:

For some time now, this young man has been struggling with Heroin Addiction. He has been at Abraxas for about three months. At first, he hated it; he ranted and raved about how his mother and this Probation Officer placed him there. Now, he appears to be well adjusted and is maintaining the top behavioral level in the program. He has apologized to his Mom for the things he has done during his love affair with Heroin. He no longer seems to be blaming others. He says that he takes responsibility for the things he has done that has resulted in his placement at Abraxas.

Up until now, Mom has not brought up some of the things that have been bothering her. This role-play takes place during an imaginary visit to her son at Abraxas…

Mom: Hi Sonny. You look SO good. Oh my goodness, you have really gained weight up here! Oh my, it’s good to see you! [Mom moves chair up closer and makes warm friendly eye contact.]

Sonny: [grunts], Ok mom, Ok its good to see you too. [As if to say-c’mon don’t embarrass me- someone might hear.]

Mom: I mean it! Even your brothers, who sometimes act as if they hate you, said they miss you.

Sonny: I should be home soon on a home pass.

Mom: I know. [Pause]. I hear great things about what you are doing up here. You mentor other teenagers now!!! I am very proud of you! And I know that you are back to playing guitar and I keep hearing about how talented you are!

Sonny: Yeah, well that home pass gives me something to look forward to. You want me to come home, right?

Mom: Oh honey I want you home in the worst way- we all do. Of course, I don’t want you home if you’re going to kill yourself with Heroin; nobody wants that.

Sonny: Mom! I quit that! I’m never going to do that stuff again. I learned a lot up here! [Scowl on his face shows displeasure that she would have to bring THAT up.]


Mom: You know what? I really need to talk to you about some difficult things. I guess you could say that I need to get some things off my chest.

Sonny: What? Mom, don’t mess things up for me, OK? [Obviously feeling fearful of what might come up.]

Mom: What do you mean?

Sonny: Well, I’m finally getting the hang of things up here- you know its real hard for me up here, and I try so hard, so please don’t start bringing me down, OK?

Mom: OK, I’m listening, what could bring you down?

Sonny: I don’t know- anything. I have a lot on my mind right now. Let’s wait till we get home to talk about anything important- I don’t want my therapist to get the wrong idea. I might loose my home pass.

Mom: Well honey, I’m not sure if it will mess up your home pass or not- I hear you – that you are afraid, but Sonny, I NEED TO TELL YOU SOME THINGS. [Slowing down her words.] I mean, some things have been really bothering me.


Mom: You know, I think you brought up a really good point.

Sonny: What?

Mom: About your counselor getting involved in this. Let’s ask her to come over here and sit in on this, so that she can support you and help you process our talk after I leave. That is a much better idea than her trying to figure it all out later.

Sonny: Are you nuts? I’ll get a level drop for sure. Ok, go ahead [Looking exasperated.] You’re going to do it anyway- I know you’re going to try to make me mad so that I don’t get my home pass. You don’t want me to come home do you? That’s what this is all about. You know I’m doing good, and you don’t want me to come home. Right?

Mom: Listen to me first – judge what I say second. Look, if you don’t want your therapist to sit in on this that’s OK. But I am going to tell her what we talked about. Nothing that I say is going to be kept secret. So, it’s up to you, but staff will be included now or included later.

Sonny: Why?

Mom: Because things that we agree to keep secret-keep us sick. And listen to this part honey- I WILL NEVER STAND BY AND HELP YOU TO STAY SICK! And that means, I won’t be keeping your secrets for you when you come home either. I will be honest with your probation officer, and I won’t cover or lie for you anymore.

Sonny: Ok call him over [Scowling again.] I don’t care, do what you want. I don’t care what you do. You’re going to do what you want anyway.

Mom: [Raising her voice.] Rose, do you have time to sit in on our visit?

Rose: Sure thing, you told me you might need me today- so I have someone here to help me cover.

Sonny: [Rolls his eyes.]

Sonny: Ok, what is it?

Mom: Son, I am troubled by some things that lay heavy on my heart. One is that I know from actual evidence, as well as from the core of my instincts as a mother, that you are the one that wiped out our bank accounts.

Sonny: Oh I TOLD you I never did that! You ain’t sticking me with that one. You better ask my brothers about that one cause I never took any of your money. [Delivered unemotionally, in a monotone.]

Mom: I’m glad we can talk about this. The second thing that troubles my heart, is that you have never taken responsibility for stealing from us.

Sonny: Cause I didn’t do it! [Looking mildly exasperated!]

Mom: Look son, [moving even closer and holding out a black book] I found this book out in the garage with your Heroin and your drug paraphernalia. It is definitely in your hand writing and it has every one of our bank account numbers listed.

Sonny: That is so wrong- you coming up here and accusing me of this. You calling me a liar Mom? Are you? Cause that’s what I think you’re doing, you’re calling me a liar, aren’t you?

Mom: It hurt a lot to lose the money. It hurts me even more that you have never admitted it. It’s like a knife in my chest! [Makes a motion of stabbing herself in the chest with imaginary knife.]

Sonny: You’re doing this just so that I won’t get to come home. You waited till I was doing good, didn’t you? Why did you wait till now to bring this up? Huh? I keep asking you that – you’re the liar – you won’t admit that you don’t want me home!!!!! That’s what this is all about!

Mom: You are right about part of that.

Sonny: Yeah, I know I’m right!

Rose: Wait a minute you guys. Sonny, why did you write these account numbers down in a book and keep it hidden in your Heroin stash?

Sonny: [Looking at his Mom- not his counselor.] See mom. You happy? I’m going to loose my level now. I told you-[looking at counselor now] I told her- that is not my writing. I never wrote down anything like that. Did she ask my brothers about it?

[Keeping eye contact with Sonny, not the counselor.] Oh I’ve checked. It’s not your brother’s hand writing. It’s yours. And they don’t do Heroin, so why would it be hidden in a Heroin stash in the garage?

Sonny: [Looking at his counselor, not his Mom.] She’s just turning things around on me- cause I’m doing so good up here.

Mom: I’m so glad you brought that up. [Moving chair closer to Sonny.]- I AM TURNING MYSELF AROUND. You see, I WILL NEVER STAND BY AND WATCH WHILE YOU KILL YOURSELF WITH HEROIN. I DID DO THAT. DO YOU HEAR ME SONNY? I DID THAT AND I AM TURNING MYSELF AROUND. I’M NOT THE SAME PERSON that used to be so afraid that I might upset you. AND I W I LL NEVER stand by and do nothing while you kill yourself with drugs. And I will not stand by now while you say you want to change your life, but you still can’t find the courage to take responsibility for what you have done.

Sonny: [Seething Quietly.]

Mom: And let me tell you one other thing. I DON’T want you home until you’re ready to recover from this Disease. And until then, I will do EVERYTHING in my power to see that you stay up here where you are safe- where you can’t hurt yourself.

Sonny: I can come home now for a visit and not get high mom. I will never get high again. I gave all that up- but you just don’t trust me!

Mom: No- you are so right! I can not begin to trust you as long as you persist in these lies. Maybe you can stay clean on a home pass; maybe you can’t. But as long as you persist in these lies, I want you to stay up here where you are safe.

Sonny: You just want me to fail up here.

Mom: I want whatever is going to help you save your own life. If that means a level drop- so be it. You deal with it!

Sonny: You don’t care about me. I work so hard up here. You’re turning it all around on me.

Mom: Sonny, I’m proud of you and the hard work you did up here. But it’s going to take more than that to stay off Heroin. I’m so afraid you’re going to kill yourself.


Mom: You know what?

Sonny: What?

Mom: I would feel a whole lot better if you were more worried about your life-threatening disease – than about your level drop!

Follow up note: I made up that role-play. The role-play we did at PSST inspired me to write it- but it is not the exact same one. I want to thank the parent who provided the scenario and who acted the part of her son.

As parents, we learn early how to figure out what is wrong with our children. We start when they are infants. We know which cries mean that something is really really wrong, which ones mean that something is really wrong, and which ones just mean something is wrong. Then, as they grow we continue to “read” our children, constantly assessing what emotions, they feel and how things look from their perspective. When we gain that place of understanding, we feel better. Because now that we know what is wrong so we can help.

Most of what we do to help we do to help we do to mitigate or ease the pain of our child. If he is upset that he is not able to have a toy that another child is playing with, we find him a similar toy. If he is jealous that another child has been successful when he has failed, we point out to him that he is successful at many things too. If he wants to watch his show on TV (and he might be very disappointed or angry if he does not get to watch) - we gladly sacrifice our own TV show so that he can watch HIS show.

This is part of how we judge our success as parents. If our child is upset, we have failed. If he is happy, then we have succeeded. This is natural. But what happens when our teenager gets involved with drugs?

NEXT: Enter the ADDICTION. Now everything we have done to manage, “read,” and intervene in our children’s life sort of backfires. For example, our teenager wants money or he wants to go out without making good acceptable plans. If we do not give in- he will be unhappy, at best. If we do give in, he will be temporarily pacified. Moreover, if he is unhappy and throwing a tantrum, then it is we the parents that he blames. Are we good parents? If we are so good, why is he so unhappy?

At some point we start to walk on eggshells. We do not want to rock the boat. God forbid we make our teenager angry now. Many of our teens with drug problems have really mastered the anger thing. Many times, we are also dealing with psychiatric problems in our teens. It is difficult to know what to do. Who wants to upset a teenager by saying NO to something that he wants so badly, and end up hearing something like, “You know what? YOU’RE the reason that I need to f___ing get high, so that I can get away from you.”

NEXT: Enter the RECOVERY. Ok, now we are finally where we need to be. Maybe our teen is in an inpatient treatment program and he is planning to work a 12-step program. However, now we are REALLY walking on eggshells. We not only fear that he is going to be angry with us, but now we also fear that WE will cause THE RELAPSE. After all, if he gets angry he will be at a higher risk of going back to the drugs. Now darn it, it is all our fault because we made him angry.

NEXT: Enter FAMILY COUNSELING. The therapists and counselors tell us that it is important that our teenager be able to get to the bottom of some of his problems, no doubt some of which are rooted in his relationship with us! Then, when the family sessions start- we feel like we are targets for his frustrations.

Perhaps he is full of resentments. These resentments can range from “you liked my sister better than me,” to “you should have stopped me from using the Heroin before I got hooked.” What has not changed now that he is in Recovery, is that he is still trying to control us with the threat that he might become upset. His power in the family may still be incredible. Even in inpatient treatment, or in court placement, our teens attempt to control us by the threat that they will be absolutely livid with us.

And maybe we feel that many things WERE our fault, because darn it, we are human beings, and therefore we are not perfect. So we apologize, and we look for ways to let our teenager know that we still care and we still love him; as if love can cure anything.

Meanwhile, all our apologies, statements of love, and our determination to “understand” are often seen as a sign of weakness by our teenager. He will play along of course. He understands this game well. The name of the game is “How Many Ways Can We Make This MOM and Dad’s FAULT?”

Therefore, we walk on eggshells. How else can we make it though the day? Well, there is another way. We can break a few eggs. In fact, we can break a few on purpose. Why? Because we come to understand that our child’s well being is no long further by the whole “tiptoe around the eggs thing.” Furthermore, our teenager is not the only one that needs to express a few resentments! As parents, we need to express some things too! What is good for the goose...

And secondly, we come to accept that if he is going to believe that we have changed once he comes home from the rehab, then we better show him some changes while he is still in the rehab. Our hope is that it produces therapeutic grist for the treatment mill.

We need to take risks in order to have any chance of helping our teenager make good decisions. We need to be strong, take-the-bull-by-the-horns parents, who do not shy from confrontation. We need to break a few eggs.

I hope that you see from this role-play that we can break a few eggs without being unseemly or mean-spirited. Our love and our warm caring feeling can be expressed at the same time that we are taking our bull by the horns.

Closing Note: I do not mean to imply that by pacifying our children, we parents have caused their addiction. We all pacify our children to one degree or another. That is not what causes the addiction and most children will not develop addictions just because a little spoiling has happened. However, when addiction strikes, it becomes counter-productive to pacify or enable them out of the consequences of their addiction. Our only hope lies in combining warm expressions of love and concern with toughness. We can see the manipulations. We must not be manipulated any longer. So, let’s break a few eggs.

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New Meeting Locations and Times
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Sunday, March 04, 2007

Starting March 10, 2007 the meeting time is changed to Saturday from 9-11:30. Monday night meetings are being discontinued. The first and third Saturdays of the month the meeting location will be at the Eastern Community Based Probation office. The second and forth Saturdays of the month the meeting location will be hosted at the Alliance Office in the North. Directions and details are on the website and the attached brochure.

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Posted by:Ken Sutton--Thursday, March 01, 2007

(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)

Among all of the emotional upheavals that invade the lives of families affected by substance abuse and addiction, FEAR is probably the most common. In all of my interactions with other families who have been impacted by this curse, it is the one universal feeling that just won’t go away. In many cases, FEAR is overpowering, paralyzing normal activity, thought processes, health and life in general. FEAR is an automatic reaction to family member addiction and is as natural as any other reflex. It is very hard to control and seems infinite in its longevity.

In order to better understand FEAR and how to mitigate its influence on our lives, we need to define the difference between “good” fear and “bad” fear....

or said another way, “rational” fear and “irrational” fear. “Good,” or “rational” fear is characterized by our ability to control, or at least partially control, its contributors, and is absolutely necessary for survival in this life. Fear is one of God’s greatest gifts for conditioning us to danger and equipping us to deal with it. We have all heard the fable of the child who was fearless around the hot stove until his hand was burned. The fear of pain created in the child by that experience was a great life lesson and probably prevented much worse injury throughout the rest of his life. “Bad,” or “irrational” fear is characterized by our total lack of any kind of control over the situation and though disguised as a real fear, it is not much more than “worry.” Dwelling on “bad” fears, also known as pathological worrying, is a path to perdition!

In our battle to achieve recovery from the woes of a family member’s addiction, there are “good” and “rational” fears that can warn of danger. They need not be paralyzing; on the contrary, they can be useful in helping us devise ways to reduce or eliminate the fear and allow us to move forward. These rational fears need to be responded to differently than “bad” or “irrational” fears. Let’s have a look at some representative examples of both, starting with “good” or “rational” fears and some positive and logical responses to them:

Facts that Evoke Appropriate Reaction
(Good Fear)

∑ Fear of abuse and/or the premature death of our loved one: Every month, the news of violent assault and death at the hands of drug dealers or other addicts, either through murder or overdose, is enough proof of the legitimacy of this fear. A constructive and appropriate response can be to pro-actively do anything and everything we can to protect our loved one from harm. Sometimes, this will mean assisting in, or at the very least, not impeding our loved one’s arrest. They will be safer in confinement than on the street. It may also mean working with the addict to find an in-patient rehabilitation facility that will be safe, educational and the beginning of a process of recovery and the ultimate eradication of this threat. Once the recovery process is underway, it may mean providing “safe haven” in the family home for some period of time.

∑ Fear of financial ruin: The high cost of rehabilitation, combined with the relative paucity of meaningful insurance coverage, together with the personal property and cash losses typically sustained by the family at the hands of the addicted family member, proves that this is clearly a rational fear. An appropriate response would be to safeguard all valuables, including cash, credit and debit cards, checkbooks, jewelry, electronics, car keys and all other items of value in the home during the period of active addiction. It also may be wise to steer the addicted family member into the “system” where much of the major expense of rehabilitation is covered by government programs. It is also advisable to consult with an attorney to investigate legal ways to protect assets.

∑ Fear that the family will be irrevocably destroyed: Clearly, the stress that addiction places on the entire family is intense and the potential for the destruction of the family is real. Siblings of an addict may feel alienated due to the attention being given to the addict; parents will feel the stress and may begin to turn on each other; finances may become strained; family life may become a constant turmoil with no end in sight; the temptation to end it by fleeing may become overwhelming for one spouse or the other, or perhaps, even both. One positive response to this fear is to seek support from appropriate resources such as a family support group, psychologist, clergyman, or professional counselor. Recognition of the symptoms of a deteriorating family and qualified support to deal with them can effectively address this fear.

∑ Fear that addiction will “spread” to other family members: As we have seen numerous times, the potential for substance abuse to claim other family members is real, happens frequently, and exponentially multiplies the misery of everyone involved. This fear can be mitigated by taking serious, formalized steps to embrace prevention through discussion, education, providing real-life examples of the dire consequences of substance abuse and being a good role model for the rest of the family. It can also be addressed by applying what we have learned about denial, enabling, co-dependency, treatment, and consequence when the first signs of “spreading” to others in the family appear on the horizon!

In every example above, it is clear that the fear is justified. It is also clear that families can mitigate these fears by recognizing them for what they are....nature’s way of alerting us to impending danger.... and equipping us with action plans to deal with them. When we analyze these fears and apply appropriate responses, they become less onerous and hence, less debilitating.

Now for a look at “bad” or “irrational” fears.

False Evidence that Appears Real
(Bad Fear)

∑ Fear that our family’s reputation is or will be ruined by the circumstances of our loved one’s addiction: This is a perfectly understandable fear in light of the societal stigma typically ascribed to the situation. However, when we analyze this fear, to whom are we giving the power to destroy our reputations? The press? People we don’t know? Neighbors with whom we don’t interact? Society in general? Let’s face it....how we are perceived by others is usually a product of how well they know us. People who knew and loved us before the problem became manifest will know and love us while the problem is active, during the recovery process, and into the far distant future. We should never confuse the fear of ruined reputation with the equally unwarranted emotion of “shame.” If we were able to hold our heads high before the addiction occurred, then we can do the same after it is discovered. People who think less of us because of a family member’s addiction are the ones with the problem, not us.
∑ Fear for our addicted family member’s future: This is a legitimate concern, but since the addict is the only one who controls it, and since it truly does not represent “danger,” succumbing to it, spending time and energy thinking about it, and suffering anxiety over it are all counter-productive to achieving our own recovery. The principle of “letting go” really applies with this fear!
∑ Fear of our recovering addict’s potential for relapse: Here again, we cannot control this possibility, so allowing our own physical and mental health to be adversely impacted by focusing on it takes away from the energy we could be better exerting on positive responses to fears we do control. Some believe that relapse is actually an expected occurrence in the recovery process and others are terrified of it. Regardless of your position on the subject, it still qualifies as “not in our control.”
∑ Fear of failure: This is one of the most paralyzing fears of all, not only as it relates to helping our addicted family member but in life generally. Failure is a very intimidating event, but fear of failure must be confronted. If we think we’re going to fail, we will fail. Success, however we define it, is far more likely to be achieved when we remove this fear from our consciousness and continue to try….always try…. regardless of setbacks encountered along the way. Our son went through outpatient rehab and it didn’t work. He went through psychological counseling and that didn’t work. He went to in-patient rehabilitation and that didn’t work. He tried self-therapy, applying intellectual rationale to his problem, staying sober to avoid consequences, and that didn’t work, as he relapsed after two years of clean time. And then he went to the 12-month Teen Challenge program, where his life was changed, his values were established and reinforced, and he experienced his first real success in defeating his addiction. That was almost three years ago now. If we had recoiled in fear of failure after his first outpatient experience, we would not be in the enviable position we enjoy today. His potential for recovery was enhanced by a belief that we and he could indeed succeed.

Fear, then, it seems, can be a helpful force of nature in some circumstances and a serious impediment to progress in others. As with any other emotion, we need to understand where it comes from, whether or not we have control over it by our actions and reactions, and how best to respond in order to move forward and achieve our ultimate goals. As our nation entered World War II, Franklin Roosevelt was quoted as saying, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” As our families confront the war against substance abuse, addiction and turmoil, I would elaborate somewhat on President Roosevelt’s wise observation thusly: “The only thing we have to fear is not appropriately responding to our fears.” If we shrink from fears of circumstances that involve our ability to mitigate them, or dwell on fears of things over which we have no control, we are headed toward misery and sorrow; conversely, if we respond appropriately to fears of circumstances over which we have significant control and drive out our fears of the uncontrollable, we will be heading down the right road, rocky as it may be from time to time.


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