Quote of the Week

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

Parent Talking Points
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Monday, April 30, 2007

Lloyd talked about Parent Talking Points this week and it started me thinking and reviewing past roll plays for a list. When I got the list down they kind of naturally fell out into categories. Help me add to the list and wordsmith these points so we can share them with others – leave a comment!

I will do anything I have to keep your safe.

I will tell your probation officer everything. That means everything from 5 minutes late on curfew to a disrespectful attitude. No secrets.

I will call the police, your probation officer, the school or anyone else
I think can help me keep you safe from drugs.

Nevertheless, this is non-negotiable.

Yes, I put you in here and I will keep you in here as long as it takes
for you to learn the skills needed for recovery from drugs.

Your father/mother and I are on the same page on this. In fact, if you try to get in between us we are going to hold you accountable. No staff splitting. Do not ask one of us for an answer after you have been given an answer by the other.

You are right, I don't trust you. You have to do the work to regain that
trust and that will take time.

If following the rules associated with the cell phone is a problem I will
cancel the cell phone.

Nevertheless, this is non-negotiable.


You cannot use drugs and live in this house.

Do not use drugs ever. Do not drink ever. Do not hang around with
people who use drugs or drink.

Nevertheless, never bring drugs into this house. Never bring drugs to
school. Never take drugs!

Regardless, it is illegal. Never smoke weed, never bring it into this
house and never bring it to school.

If the pressures of living a drug free life are making you want to use
drugs you should call your sponsor or go to a meeting. Only you are
responsible for you.

If you are having suicidal thoughts I will call 911 immediately.

I love you and will continue to support you.

I am proud of you.

I forgive you.

How can I help support your program?

Not really a talking point but keep in mind that talking is overrated. Demonstrate by your actions.
Stop discussions when they get out of hand – walk away.

Set the date, time and location for meaningful discussions. Control the start and the end.

Make weekly calls to the probation officer where they can hear you.

Control who sits where in the car.

Control the car audio system and music selection.

Have the cell phone number changed.

Give hugs of encouragement.

Give small gifts to celebrate clean time.

Go to NA meetings to see them get key tags – hug them and leave.

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Get Serious petition urging elected official to support common-sense, research-based solutions to reduce underage drinking.
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Wednesday, April 25, 2007

While this cartoon might make you chuckle, it's a sobering fact that this year, more than 5,000 underage youth will die from alcohol-related causes -- that’s more than 13 kids every day. Meanwhile, slick beer industry marketing saturates TV, the Internet, sporting events, magazines -- everywhere. Worried about their profits, beer executives brazenly tell politicians they don't want kids to drink, then use their lobbying muscle to block effective strategies that do keep youth away from alcohol.

Will you take a stand? Click here to sign the petition.

Type rest of the post here

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Top 10 Addiction Myths — and Myth Busters
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Friday, April 20, 2007

(From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's "Silent Treatment: Addiction in America" project, produced by Public Access Journalism LLC.)

Think you know about addiction? Then these common myths may sound familiar:

Myth 1: Drug addiction is voluntary behavior. You start out occasionally using alcohol or other drugs, and that is a voluntary decision. But as times passes, something happens, and you become a compulsive drug user. Why? Because over time, continued use of addictive drugs changes your brain — in dramatic, toxic ways at times, more subtly at others, but virtually always in ways that result in compulsive and even uncontrollable drug use.

Myth 2: Drug addiction is a character flaw. Drug addiction is a brain disease. Every type of drug — from alcohol to heroin — has its own mechanism for changing how the brain functions. But regardless of the addiction, the effects on the brain are similar, ranging from changes in the molecules and cells that make up the brain to mood and memory processes — even on motor skills such as walking and talking. The drug becomes the single most powerful motivator in your life.

Myth 3: You can't force someone into treatment. Treatment does not have to be voluntary. Those coerced into treatment by the legal system can be just as successful as those who enter treatment voluntarily. Sometimes they do better, as they are more likely to remain in treatment longer and to complete the program. In 1999, over half of adolescents admitted into treatment were directed to do so by the criminal justice system.

Myth 4: Treatment for drug addiction should be a one-shot deal. Like many other illnesses, drug addiction typically is a chronic disorder. Some people can quit drug use “cold turkey,” or they can stop after receiving treatment just one time at a rehabilitation facility. But most people who abuse drugs require longer-term treatment and, in many instances, repeated treatments.

Myth 5: We should strive to find a "magic bullet" to treat all forms of drug abuse. There is no “one size fits all” form of drug treatment, much less a magic bullet that suddenly will cure addiction. Different people have different drug abuse-related problems. And they respond very differently to similar forms of treatment, even when they're abusing the same drug. As a result, drug addicts need an array of treatments and services tailored to address their unique needs. Finding an approach that is personally effective can mean trying out several different doctors or treatment centers before a “match” is found between patient and program.

Myth 6: People don't need treatment. They can stop using drugs if they really want to. It is extremely hard for people addicted to drugs to achieve and maintain long-term abstinence. Research shows that when long-term drug use actually changes a person's brain function, it causes them to crave the drug even more, making it increasingly difficult to quit without effective treatment. Intervening and stopping substance abuse early is important, as children become addicted to drugs much faster than adults and risk greater physical, mental and psychological harm.

Myth 7: Treatment just doesn't work. Studies show drug treatment reduces drug use by 40 to 60 percent and can significantly decrease criminal activity during and after treatment. There is also evidence that drug addiction treatment reduces the risk of infectious disease, Hepatitis C and HIV infection — intravenous-drug users who enter and stay in treatment are up to six times less likely to become infected with HIV — and improves the prospects for getting and keeping a job up to 40 percent.

Myth 8: No one voluntarily seeks treatment until they hit rock bottom. There are many things that can motivate a person to enter and complete treatment before that happens. Pressure from family members and employers, as well as personal recognition that they have a problem, can be powerful motivators. For teens, parents and school administrators are often driving forces in getting them into treatment before situations become dire.

Myth 9: People can successfully finish drug abuse treatment in a couple of weeks if they're truly motivated. For treatment to have an effect, research indicates a minimum of 90 days of treatment for outpatient drug-free programs, and 21 days for short-term inpatient programs. Follow-up supervision and support are essential. In all recovery programs, the best predictor of success is the length of treatment. Patients who are treated for at least a year are more than twice as likely to remain drug free, and a recent study showed adolescents who met or exceeded the minimum treatment time were over one and a half times more likely to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

Myth 10: People who continue to abuse drugs after treatment are hopeless. Completing a treatment program is merely the first step in the struggle for recovery that can last a lifetime. Drug addiction is a chronic disorder; occasional relapses do not mean failure. Psychological stress from work or family problems, social cues — meeting some from the drug-using past — or the environment — encountering streets, objects or even smells associated with drug use — can easily trigger a relapse. Addicts are most vulnerable to drug use during the few months immediately following their release from treatment. Recovery is a long process and frequently requires multiple treatment attempts before complete and consistent sobriety can be achieved.

(Sources: National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institute of Health; Dr. Alan I. Leshner, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; “The Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide” (October 1999); The Partnership for a Drug-Free America)

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Summary of 4-14-07 Alliance Office PSST
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nine parents attended this meeting at the Alliance Office in the North Hills. Powerlessness was a huge topic. Our role-play can best be entitled "Let's all blame Mom." Most participated in some aspect of the role-play. I was not needed in this role-play, not even as a coach! The parents all did a terrific job. Each parent who played the Mom put the drama in a new light! Fantastic job. Special thanks to the parent who contributed this role-play and was willing to act it out with us. The following written role-play is inspired by what you all did...

Role-play: Ganging up on Mom.

Mom: Honey, the weed smoking and the alcohol abuse that you are doing is unacceptable. I hope with what happened at school, with the marijuana that they found in your school locker- I hope you can see that now.

Son: It's your fault! You are the one who got me busted.

Dad: Did you really do that? Did you call the school about our son and get him in trouble?

Mom: Yes.

Son: See, I told you Dad! She is a witch! There is no way you could do that to me- ooooooo- I am so pizzed at you for that you evil witch!

Dad: Son, just calm down now.

Son: I told you she did that! You said "no she wouldn't do that!"

Dad: C'mon now Son, I have to put up with her too you know. [winks at mother as though this joke is an inside one.]

Son: She's your wife, "DAD," and she wont' even listen to what YOU tell her.

Dad: [Looking at Mom] Why didn't you tell me you were thinking of calling the school?

Mom: Didn't think I needed to!

Dad: Well, you should have told me- I would have told you if I was thinking of doing something like that. I don't think we should ever call the school about stuff like that- now look at this mess!

Mom: You think this is my fault?

Dad: No, it's his fault for having the marijuana at school. But I just don't think you handled it right. I wish you wouldn't go off making phone calls like that!

Mom: OK, OK, OK, Let me get this straight- hold on now. [Looking back and forth from the Son to the Father. ] So, I called the school and told them that I thought that you were using drugs because I've been worried about that. You know we have talked about this. I asked them if they could advise me about where to go to get help for you. They decided to check your locker, and they found the Marijuana that you had put there?

Son: Yes, I PUT it there! OK Mom, does that float your boat? I PUT it there- you got me busted- I just hope your're happy! Dad and I both know you shouldn't have done that.

Dad: Settle down Son, lets don't all start yelling. I know you have a hard time getting along with you mother- sometimes it's hard for me too.

Dad: [Looking at Mom]- Can you see where you've screwed everything up now?

Mom: Do you think he put the marijuana in his locker because of me then?

Dad: Oh you're just too hard on the kid- You've always been too hard on him. I think that's probably why he feels that he has to smoke marijuana.

Son: It is why; I have to figure out a way to cope with you, don't I, you vicious witch.

Dad: Now now son...

Son: It's true. Hey Mom, want me to get your broomstick out of the closet so you can ride to a PTA meeting and tell em some more shyt about me?

Dad: Son, I don't appreciate how you're treating your mother.

Son: You don't?

Dad: No I do not! I have to deal with her all the time, dont' I, and you don't see me calling her names.

Mom: [Moving in closer to Dad] You often undermine me in front of our Son. I am trying to help him stop using drugs and you don't help at all; in fact, you pull the rug out from under me all the time with him. Never undermine me in front of our Son. If you want to tell me that you disagree with me, talk to me in private.

Dad: Oh my God, it must be great to be you! You just get to look down on everyone else don't you? It must be lonely way up on the white horse of yours. Well just ride off on it then, leave us alone. And bring me my bottle of whiskey over there before you ride off- this meeting is making me thirsty...

Son: Yep, that's what I been telling you Dad, you got to take something just to be able to handle the evil witch.


Mom: [Looking at Dad] I need to talk to you in private!

Dad: No! You can talk in front of our Son, because he needs to hear what you've got to say for your self, you know, for the rotten trick you pulled on him.

Mom: Ok, good point- maybe he does need to hear some of this.

Mom: [Looking at Son and moving closer] [Lowing her voice and speaking lower] Do not take drugs. Do not use alcohol. Never bring drugs home and never take drugs to school. Be ADVISED, that this witch will always get right off her broomstick and go to the phone to call school officials and police. I will not tolerate you smoking marijuana or abusing any other subtance and I will stop you by whatever means necessary...

Dad: [interrupting] You don't mean that you would pull that on him again do you? I told you - I don't think that is too good an idea!

Mom: [focusing on Son, not on Dad but she answers Dad's comment more effectively this way] Oh, for your information. HE [points at dad], can NOT protect you from me. This witch is going to patrol the home daily, and if you persist in bringing drugs into this house- I will see that you get help for this problem if you have to be marched off in handcuffs.

Dad: You can't say that!

Mom: [Still looking at Son] Nevertheless, never bring drugs into this house. Never bring drugs to school. Never take drugs! Yesterday, I contacted ACT 53. If you continue to refuse to see a therapist or participate in outpatient, then there will be a court date. I am filing a petition that will force you to have an assessment and treatment for your drug problem.

Son: Dad, stop her- she's crazy!

Dad: You're not going to keep making phone calls like that one, are you?

Mom: [Still looking at Son] Regardless, I will go through your room. I will go though your cell phone, and if you do not allow me to go through your cell phone, I will cancel the phone. I might just cancel it anyway...

Dad: What! that's not your phone- you can't cancel that!

Mom: [Still looking at Son even though it was Dad who spoke the last complaint.] Regardless, I will cancel the your phone if you continue to refuse to participate in outpatient. I will call outside this house for help in a New York Minute. For one thing, I understand that I will get no help from anyone else in this family.

Son: This is all your fault you witch! [rasing voice.]

Mom: Oh, yes, this IS something that I will take a little bit of credit for- but you have no idea how far I am willing to go to see that you do not do drugs.

Dad: Please stop this. [Wincing].

Mom: [Now looking at Dad, finally] Until you sit down with me alone and in private to discuss our Son's drug problem, I have nothing else to say to you about this.

Dad: You are not the boss of me!

Mom: Regardless, I have NOTHING to say to you. [Moving in closer as she says this, which seems to suggest that she has volumes to tell him, but just not right now!]

Dad: You haven't heard the last of this!

Mom: Nevertheless, I have nothing more for you until you are ready to sit down in private with me.

Mom: [Looking back at Son, who is starting to look worried, like he is afraid that she will go get that broomstick; he really did not expect mom to be this bold in front of Dad!] You won't believe this now but I will tell you anyway! I love you.

Son: Yeah right, you NEVER loved me! You don't love me now, not like Dad does; you just want to get me put away!

Mom: Nevertheless, it is because I love you that I will stop at nothing to see that you quit doing drugs and drinking alcohol.

Son: Dad drinks, why can't I smoke weed? Weed is better for you than alcohol. If I stop drinking, can I still smoke weed? Everyone knows weed isn't bad for you.

Mom: [Mom does not bite on that hook!] Regardless, it is illegal. Never smoke weed, never bring it into this house and never bring it to school. It is illegal and I will call for help again if I have to. Is that clear?

Son: YES! Leave me alone. I hate you! No one else's mother is as evil as you are! Why can't you be cool like other parents?

Mom: Nevertheless, never use drugs or alcohol.

Son: "Nevertheless- nevertheless, I HATE that word!

Mom: Regardless, never use drugs. Never have them at home or at school. [Mother gets up to leave, and walk away but she turns towards Dad when she hears him speak...]

Dad: Wait, I've got something else to say to you!

Mom: Really? I'd say you better make an appointment for that private meeting then! [Mom walks off, gets on her broom, revs the engine, and flys away into the sunset...]

Also, for estranged or divorced Parents visit this role-play http://nevertheless-psst.blogspot.com/2006/12/parent-vs-parent.html.

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Idea: Manny the Manipulator
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ken and I have been talking about having one place where you can go to see all the manipulative techniques that our kids use. This could be ongoing, and we can start now by collecting comments from readers. What great diversions and power-plays do your teens throw at you? We thought about calling this one Manny the Manipulator...

We thought that we can divide these into types or categories (like power plays or pushing limits) under which there will be many variations. Ken's thinking is we can end up with something like "If your teen says this ____; you can reply with ______. "
Of course, a lot of the time, we are just recommending that the reply is a power word such as "nevertheless" or "regardless," but not all the time. Rather than just becoming robot responders, we can throw in an empathic statement along with the power word, or if the manipulation opens the door to one of our talking points, then we can respond with something like, "that is a really good question" OR "I'm so glad you brought that up. "

Also, some particular things that teens say might call for very specific responses, such as a suicidal threat. We never want to treat a suicidal threat as a mere manipulation, because we know that teens who threaten suicide, and who do not really seem to be trying very hard to carry out that threat, actually do kill themselves. Therefore, all threats to hurt themselves or to hurt others should be taken seriously and the teen should be taken to an ER at a local hospital or at WPIC for evaluation. In an emergency, 911 should be called. Oddly enough, once the teen knows that this is your standard response, they are less likely to use this threat as a manipulative ploy.

The first category of manipulations that I am thinking of is when the teen tries to turn things back on the parent. For example:

Manny: You always let (insert name of older sibling) stay out till one, why can't I stay out that late?
Manny: You lie all the time! I could never trust you!
Manny: You have a drink or two every night, why can't i smoke weed?
Manny: You only want me to stay home because you have no life, and no friends! You want me to be a looser like you are!
Manny: You are so uncool. You don't know anything about kids today Mom. I have to tell you everything.
Manny: You need to wear better clothes. Throw those rags away! I'll tell you what to wear, gee you don't know anything- do you!
Manny: You don't know anything about recovery or about drug addiction, do you? Don't tell me I need to call my sponsor when you never had a sponsor and you don't know squat.
Manny: You always need to call my Probation Officer. You can't just be a parent and handle me. Why can't you just be my mom and we can handle it instead of always calling my PO and whining about me. You need to grow up and be a mom! That PO ain't my Daddy!
Manny: You're just jealous because I HAVE friends!
Manny: You're trying to work my program for me!
Manny: You are so negative! All you do is bytch at me! Can't you say anything good? What about all those days that I didn't get high? All I hear about is the stuff I do wrong!
Manny: You put me in this place. It's cause you don't want me at home! Now you can just be with your boyfriend; that's why you got rid of me!

This is just a few of the one's where the "Teen Turns Things Back On The Parent." This is just to start us off. There are so many of these both in this category and in other categories. Other categories might include, "Turning Parent against Parent, PO, Teacher, Counselor, or Rehab," "Getting loud and having a tantrum," "Threatening (such as 'I am going out anyway')," "Badgering (where any thing is thown out until the parent just caves in), and other categories as well. I realize that some of these overlap. We want this to end up being comprehensive, so we really need help to gather them all up- so please leave some comments here. Eventually, we think we might devote a dedicated space on the web site to these so that parents can see the manipulations and possible answers to them.

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Eastern Probation Office Meeting 4-7-07
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, April 08, 2007

Nine parents attended this meeting. Topics that we discussed: the incurable yet treatable disease of addiction, what to do with anger and resentment, parent letters to the disease, breaking a few eggs, teen manipulative strategies, using your child's Probation Officer effectively, what to do about pre-relapse anxiety a parent can feel, and how to engage ACT 53. We made time for two role-plays at the end. The role-play printed here is only inspired by the two that we did in group and not an actual representation.

Role-play: preparing for a six hour pass home from the rehab.

Mom: Honey, we need to talk about this home pass, you know, get expectations out in the open.

Son: What are you talking about? You act like I'm a criminal or something. I'm not going to be getting high anymore now- so we can cut the shyt. I'm done with all that. Don't worry- I'll be fine- I learned my lesson!

Dad: Son, we are here to tell you that things are going to be different at home from now on.

Son: I know that Dad! Do yo think I'm stupid. Whatever. Make your silly rules up- it's not going to matter because I'm done with the marijuana. Crap! You'd think I was doing Heroin! That's what kids in here do DAD, they do Heroin! You guys think you have problems- you should feel lucky! These kids on Heroin are a mess. THEY have problems. I'm not even on that shyt!

Mom: Look, Honey all we want to talk about right now is the six hour home pass. We need to know that you are going to follow expectations and the rules.

Dad: Right, we can cross the other bridges later.

Son: OK, OK, OK,- tell me the rules! [Rolling eyes- exasperated-clearly these parents are trying his nerves and if they don't watch out he might have to blow up just to get them back in line- a manipulative technique that may have worked for him in the past.]

Dad: OK, first: the home pass is to spend with us- not your friends.

Son: Duh!

Mom: OK, "duh," well said son- it IS a nobrainer- glad you see that. Here is the deal: no use of the telephone AT ALL unless we know who and why you are calling, and unless one of us says that it's OK. Two: no use of computer AT ALL. Three: no going out in the yard or hanging on the porch unless one of us is with you...

Son: [Not able to restrain himself anymore.] That's fu&^#d up! You can't do that! Are you crazy? You CAN'T DO THAT! THAT'S ILLEGAL [raising voice now].

Dad: Nevertheless, son, that's the deal- I'm sorry to say this but take it or leave it. [Dad ignores the "bait" on the whole illegality ploy because he sees it for the distraction that it is.]

Mom: And there's more. But I'll let you talk for a minute because you seem upset- when you're ready I'll tell you the rest of the rules.

Son: There's no "rest of the rules." Listen you guys are going to get in trouble. I'll call the police if I have to. There are laws against taking hostages! You just can't do that to me. Who the hell do you think you are anyway? You can't stop me from using the phone. THAT is ridiculous!

Mom: Regardless, maybe you should just think it over.

Son: NO- I'm not a piece of shyt and if you and Dad think that you can treat me like that just because I'm in a drug rehab- you're nuts! And that's wrong. I won't let you get away with it.

Long pause- [Everyone looks uncomfortable- no one speaking. These parents have learned that they don't get their point across by getting in the last word- they are patient. At least for right now they know they know they are holding all the cards- they have prepared for this meeting, in fact, they have insisted that the drug rehab allow them time to structure expectations for the home pass- they demanded it and told the rehab that if they don't clarify expectations, there will be no home pass. These parents have decided before hand that their son needs this pass home more than they need him to be home. They know that there are two big reasons to get these expectations resolved before the home pass starts. One: to help to avoid any problems such as their son getting high on a home pass. Two: to send a message to their son that he is no longer in charge, i.e., there is a new sheriff in town! They are tired of walking on egg shells around their son and they are ready to begin to take back control.]

Son: What? [Looking at them, uncomfortable with the silence.]

Dad: I'm not ready for a home pass unless we can come to an understanding.

Son: Fine! I'll stay here! Is that what you want? Hey, even the Heroin addicts get to go home for Easter! But not me! No, no, no-a "big bad marijuana fein" like me, isn't safe to go home- that is such a crock of shyt- are you going to tell them you don't want me home? Huh? They are going to laugh at you! This one counselor said I shouldn't even be here! And another one said that they hope I don't "overstay" cause that could be bad for me to be stuck in here with all the junkies, but no- thanks to you now I got to go tell them that my parents don't want me home.

Dad: OK, OK, OK, [Holding up hand in the universal traffic signal.] You bring up a good point. Hold on a minute. I need to say a few things about this- but I don't want to be interrupted once I start talking, so you tell me when you're done, so I can talk. OK? I'll wait.

Son: [Glares- clearly he does not want to agree not to interrupt- but he wants to hear what Dad has to say.] Just you remember this- how you're treating me now when I'm in here - I'm going to remember that when I'm home! OK- you both got that? I want to be treated decent, like a f&$@*ng human being- not like I'm somebody's dog-and if you give me trouble now- I'm not going to forget that once I get home. OK?

Mom: Just let us know when you are finished.

Son: Go ahead!

Mom: [Looking at Dad, she is not sure how far he is ready to go with this whole thing now-they were trying to keep this meeting relevant to the six-hour home pass, which would usually make sense- but they are getting a lot of resistance and may have to pull out a big gun issue. Mom chooses to let Dad deal with the bigger issue if he wants to go there, i.e., should Son even come home if he is going to be so resistant, and she takes a different course].

OK, well before your Dad starts- I want you to know that you sound like Tony Soprano with the threats you're making. [It is a good idea to pay attention to what is happening. Mom pays attention by labeling behavior as a threat. Notice that she does not threaten back at him, or make this THE ISSUE all of a sudden, but neither can she fail to pay attention. Many, but not all negative behaviors disappear if parents correctly label them.]

Son: I did not threaten you. You're twisting what I said.

Mom: Nevertheless, I feel threatened.

Dad: So do I- but Son, this is a good time- I want to share some things with you. [Dad also labels the threat- but then moves on to the larger issue.]

Son: Yes, I SAID "Yes." You are both so up my butt with this crap- you know it's this kind of shyt that makes me want to use weed! It's assholes like you that make people like me need weed!

Dad: Are you OK? [Ignoring the last effort at distraction-this distraction is actually a good thing to talk about at some point, and both parents make a mental note that Son is threatening to use, and therefore is hardly out-of-the-woods on the substance abuse issue. However, they are two people on a mission and must now return to the home pass issue.]

Son: YES [Obviously mad now.] Just get it over with! I hate this meeting. Can we just get this over with please!

Dad: OK. I didn't want to tell you this right now. I just wanted to deal with the home pass issue, but I think that I need to tell you this now. No interruptions, OK?

Son: OK, OK, OK, I told you OK- just tell me!

Dad: Your mother and I, we want you to be happy, and of course we want you to be drug-free too, but it's important to us that you are not miserable. Maybe happy is too strong a word.


Dad: We think you are very unhappy at home! And the way this meeting has gone so far- I feel horrible, but I'm afraid that maybe you are not going to find happiness at home. Now I know you are only 15, and probably living in a group home or something that Probation finds for you is not a pleasant idea, but just think for a minute- if you didn't have to deal with us on an everyday basis, do you think you would be happier?

Son: Are you for real? I'm not going into a group home. Shut up. That's stupid. I got a home. I'm coming home.

Mom: Not so fast.

Son: What?

Mom: Not so fast. I'm not agreeing to even take you for a home pass- let alone take you home when you get out of here- and if and when I do agree to either a home pass or to actually take you home after discharge, it's because I think you can be successful at home. Frankly, nothing I've seen in this meeting leads me to believe that you are ready to come home and be successful.

Son: I told you- I'm done with the weed! I'm done with the drugs!

Dad: Ahhhhh, but are you done with the friends that you did drugs with?

Son: Hey, those are my friends; you can't pick my friends for me!

Dad: OK we are going no where. We can talk for ever about this- and you will believe what you want and we will believe what we want. Nothing will change on either side. So, lets do this. Lets assume after you think it over - that you agree with the rules for the home pass. You don't even know what they all are yet! And this is the only meeting we can have before we come to pick you up. So, lets cover them and if you think we are too unreasonable, then don't come on the home pass. We will respect your choice to stay in the rehab instead of coming home.

Mom: Right, so we only have a couple more rules to tell you anyway. You will go to a 12-step meeting. We will drive you there and pick you up. And one of us may sit in on the meeting. Oh, And doorknobs have been removed from a lot of the doors in our house. We have even taken them off the bathroom for right now. You are not to be behind any locked doors on the home pass.

Son: What? [Incredulous look on face.]

Dad: Yes, and another thing. Don't give us too hard a time. We know you are going to be angry. That's OK, but don't take it out on us. You don't have to talk to us if you don't want too, but no swearing at us- yelling at us, or going off on your own without supervision.

Mom: Oh yeah, and no smoking!

Son: What? you always let me smoke, just as long as I'm in the basement or outside?!!!!

Dad: Yes, but we have decided not to allow that now.

Son: And why not?

Dad: We enforce all rules that this rehab has while you are with us for a home pass.

Son: They all smoke on home pass- the rehab knows that- THEY aren't nuts like you guys! They expect us to smoke.

Dad: [Dad gets closer to his son- makes DEAD ON eye contact and lowers his voice to a slow whisper- picture Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry in the "go ahead, make my day" scene. ] Nevertheless- smoking on your home pass is unacceptable.

Son: Why not? Give me one good reason!

Mom: [Moving up closer and slowing down her speech too.] Because we said so!

Son: That's not a good enough reason.

Dad: Regardless, that's the reason.

Son: I can't accept that.

Dad: Whether or not to come on the home pass is up to you Son; think it over. [Putting the ball back in his court is better than having the last word- let him have the last word.]


Dad: One more thing. If you don't think you can handle these rules, I think it's better that you don't come home on the pass. It might be easier for you just to stay here rather than try to cope with the rules we have set down. For one thing, if at any point in the home pass, it appears that you do not intend to follow these rules, we will return you directly to this facility. [Reverse psychology, which might motivate an the oppositionally defiant.]

Mom: Oh yes- and let me tell you young man [moving even closer] we love you- we want you home with us for Easter- but if you decide to come home, and we see that you are making no effort to meet these expectations- I don't care if we are only in the parking lot outside this building- we are marching you right back inside! So, think it over very carefully.

Son: No way. Forget the home pass. Don't come visit me anymore. You don't want me home, I can see that; just go ahead with your lives because I can see that you don't want me home.

Dad: I'm sorry it looks that way to you. Regardless, these are the rules. You think it over Son, we'll respect whatever you decide on this one. [Dad ignores the bait of the whole "you don't want me home," except to say that he is sorry that son sees it that way. This is another distraction, a good one that many parents fall for.]

Son: You know, you tricked me. I can't trust you anymore.

Dad: Really? How so? [This is another distraction- but Dad allows just a bit of a distraction here, because Dad and Mom have considered the whole "trust" issue, they are ready for it, and it suits their purposes to allow this one distraction because it allows them to cover one of their talking points.]

Son: Before I decided to come in here- I didn't know that you guys were going to go all postal on me- nutso with changes before I got out! You lied and said, "Oh we'll work it out- you'll be home in no time."

Mom: Good point Son. I see it looks to you like we've been deceptive. [Mom agrees with him that it "looks to him" like they have been deceptive. This is Counter-manipulative strategy; she will put her TWIST in it before it's done. By sort of agreeing with his accusation, she stops this issue from becoming a huge distraction.]

Son: Right- I would have never told my PO that I was coming in here if I knew all this was going to happen. You keep changing things, that's why I can't trust you now! When am I coming home? That will be the next thing you try to change on me!

Dad: I don't think it will matter to you, if we tell you we didn't exactly see all these changes coming either. [Still going with the reverse psychology.]

Son: Yeah, right! [rolls eyes] You knew! [He doesnt bite on the reverse psychology. However, even when it doesn't seem to work- the reverse psychology does work. Dad called this one. It didn't matter to Son, just like Dad said. So, Dad looks like he knows what he's talking about :) ].

Mom: I'm glad you pointed this out, really.

Son: [Looking encouraged, as if he thinks that he has scored a big one now- the look of triumph in his eyes.]

Son: So, yeah this is really going to be hard for us to get through now that I realize that I can't trust you. You shouldn't make all these changes while I'm in here- it's not fair. It's like the coward's way to work things and now I can't trust you. [He continues to beat the "I can't trust you drum" believing that his parents have a strong NEED to be trusted, just like he mistakenly thought that his parents had a strong NEED to have him home on the home pass- as if THEY will be the ones suffering if does not come home.]

Son: From what I can see- you're being mislead by this crazy dude at those meetings you go to. I heard about that guy- NO ONE up here can stand that guy. As long as you're going to those meetings, I think it's going to be hard for me to trust you.

Dad: Wow. You said a lot there. Phew. Let me try to take that all in for a moment.

Mom: Right - me too. Gee whiz son, you are good! You really should study Law- with reasoning like that - you could win a lot of court cases. [Simple flatery. We forget that it is one of the basic tools of effective communication. And really, this kid IS quite good at debate and at throwing up distractions. Aren't they all?]

Son: [Looking pleased with himself now.] It's true. You can ask anybody up here! Everyone says it.

Mom: OK, Well this what I hear you saying. Number One: we are changing things and that makes you think you can't trust us.

Son: Right- cause you are.

Mom: And two: you think the problem that we are having is partly becasue we attend PSST meetings? [Basic active listening skills.]

Son: Yep. That's the way I feel about it. You don't want me to lie do you? I really am feeling some kinda way about this- like this is going to be hard for us to work though and that's what we are supposed to be doing up here- working through our issues!

Mom: Well, honey I'm glad you said all this- and yes, I'm very glad that you are being honest with us. For you to say that, means that you believe that we are making changes at home. You are so right. We are making a lot of changes and I see that you are starting to believe that now. Good for you. [Enter the TWIST.]

Dad: Yes, I agree. Nice going Son. And I can hear you that you feel you can't trust us now. [Moving closer.] I think the way you are looking at it, you are right. You definitely CAN'T trust us. You can only TRUST that we will do EVERYTHING in our power to try to help you save your own life from drugs and alcohol. [Another TWIST- in group this line in role-plays draws applause!] You can trust that we will search your room; trust that we will take off the doorknobs; trust that we will use the Probation Officer, the Counselors, the School people to help. Trust that we will do everything we can to see that you get ALL the treatment there is for this life-threatening disease. If this rehab isn't long enough- we know there are other places. And you so are right to point this out: TRUST that your mother and I will CHANGE things as we go along. Lot's of things.

Mom: Right, you can trust that we are going to change a LOT of things whenever we feel that it might help you stay away from drugs. And I know that you are no Heroin Addict, at least not yet, but the large amounts of money you stole from us, the continued drug abuse of marijuana and pills, the school problems, and the fact that we have become completely POWERLESS to control you- that is now unacceptable to us. WE WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING IF NECESSARY TO SEE THAT THIS DOES NOT CONTINUE. [Said sternly, with strong eye contact- but in a quiet voice, not a yelling voice. This is embracing First Step for parents.]

Dad: And Son, I'm glad you brought up the meetings that we go to. I didn't think you noticed that or cared about where we go. You may not know this but we are also going to Bridge To Hope meetings, and Naranon meetings now. We are not going as often as we'd like to, but we will go to anyplace we can if we think it might help. That includes PSST meetings. But that is our business- you can have feelings about it- that's OK, but that's our business and we will make those decisions. [Good boundaries- Son's problem with the meetings is that he can sense a shift in power from the strength and motivation that the parents get from the meetings. What a shift- usually it's the parents who are concerned about where the teen is going, now the teen is concerned about where parents are going! Full of irony at the least. ]

Son: I can't believe this!

Dad: Thanks for letting us explain all this- I know it was a lot to handle, but really we needed to get that off our chest. [Expressing gratitude for son listening is not a sign of weakness but to the contrary- we can all still be civil and not forget to let loved ones know that we appreciate the little things they do. And think about it: this was a LOT for the kid to sit through. He is not used to this kind of confrontation.]

Mom: Yes, and I know this was not an easy meeting for you. You did fine. You didn't interrupt us much after we asked you not to do that- and you didn't start a tantrum. You did just fine. Now, if I were you I'd think carefully about my next step. If you decide not to visit or not to return home to live with us at all- then talk to the people up here about what your options are. [Putting the ball back in Son's court. Once again, this is much more effective than getting in the last word.]

Son: I'm not going to live in a stupid group home, if that's what you're thinking!

Dad: Good for you, then. So you've got a lot to think over I'd say.

Son: Maybe. [At this point, Son is not about to agree with anything that THEY say.]


Son: We'll let me ask you something.

Mom: Sure thing.

Son: If I come home for the pass and I do all this STUFF, can I at least have a cigarette- just one- or maybe two- before I come back here. It's so hard to go without them. Hey, if you want, you can even just give me one if I follow all the rules you have, you know, as a reward or something. Nobody here will know.

Dad: OOOOOOOO- now you tempt me Son- [Smiling.] [It is tempting- now if you agree to his cigarette request, he will or might agree to your conditions. Just pay him off. Of course that actually puts Son back in control and makes co-conspirators out of all three of you. This is a trap, a back door effort to sneak in the control he feels he is loosing.]

Mom: Yes, me too, but you know, we have a problem with that too- but it is a really good question you are asking. [A good question is one that opens up one of the parents talking points :)]

Dad: Yes, it is a good question and it deserves a good answer. Son, we can no longer keep secrets like that for you. Period.

Mom: Yes, you see we have learned that our secrets keep us sick- and honey we don't want to loose you to this terrible disease- so we have made a committment not to keep secrets about your behavior- not from the rehab staff- not from your Probation Officer. So, you see they would find out. We would tell them.

Son: Who are you people and what have you done with my real parents?

Mom and Dad: [Laughing].

Dad: So glad you can keep a sense of humor about this Son. Oh, and one more thing that I don't think you will believe- but I got to tell you. We miss you. I miss you. You should know that.

Son: Doesn't sound like it.

Mom: No I don't suppose it does sound like that to you. [More active listening- this Mom is skillful :)] Well, sorry it looks that way to you- regardless, we love you very much. You let us know what you want to do about the six hour home pass, OK?

Son: Ok, [Son tries to walk away- but parents grab him- hug him anyway- he tries to resist- they let him go- he walks back acting upset, but without the same angry conviction he displayed earlier in the meeting.]

Mom: [Watching Son walk away she turns to Dad.] That was hard- my heart is breaking.

Dad: Me too. But, hey, we did the right thing- he will be ok, he is learning that he has to deal with us- and he hasn't had to deal with us like this for a long time. It will take some time for him to get used to us.

Mom: I guess so, [Starting to cry a little], but we did good didn't we?

Dad: Yes, honey, we did good.

[Parent's hugging.]

Final point: If you are a single parent and you read this you might say to your self, "they are lucky - there is two of them," and you would be right. However, you can combine Mom and Dad's comments: one parent could say all that. It is often more difficult to pull off, but it can be done. After the role-play, if you are single parent, make sure to go somewhere else for a hug. You need one too.

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Reaching Out To Young People Before They Reach Out To Alcohol And Drugs
Posted by:Ken Sutton--Saturday, April 07, 2007

Reaching Out To Young People Before They Reach Out To Alcohol And Drugs
By Mike Manko

The numbers are frightening; children as young as nine and ten taking their first drink, five thousand young people trying marijuana for the first time each day, more than one hundred thousand young people dying from drug overdoses in the last five years. It is clear that more so than ever before, the lives of young people are being impacted and in many cases ended by alcohol and drugs.

Three years ago, school district officials and members of law enforcement from throughout Allegheny County approached the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office asking if a program existed that could help to educate parents, teachers and students about the trends and the dangers of mixing drugs and alcohol. Although the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program has been available to elementary age children for several years, there was no specific program to tackle the issue of middle school and high school students having to deal with decisions involving alcohol and drugs. District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. recognized an opportunity to begin a dialogue with these groups and to engage those same groups in their communities and on their schedule. “Historically, the District Attorney’s Office has been a reactive entity, taking care of problems after they occur,” said D.A. Zappala. “For the past decade, I’ve welcomed the opportunity to get involved on the front end of situations, before problems begin to manifest themselves.” Having such a dialogue and line of communication is crucial because the overwhelming majority of young people have yet to make important and life altering decisions about substance abuse.

In addition to the overall threat of substance abuse involving teens and pre-teens, the request for assistance from District Attorney Zappala on this issue was prompted in part by a significant increase in heroin use in our area that began in the mid 1990’s and continues today. What has made the current popularity especially worrisome is the fact that the price of this drug has made it attractive and the potency of the drug is ten to fifteen times what it was when heroin was popular thirty years ago. “Part of the reason heroin was confined to a relatively small group of people in the 1970’s was because the purity of the drug was between five and seven percent and you had to use a needle to get high,” said Zappala. “People always have an aversion to injecting themselves, more so today because of the risk of HIV and Hepatitis. Now, we have heroin that is seventy to ninety percent pure and users who aren’t thrilled with the idea of sticking a needle in their arm can initially get high by snorting or smoking the drug.”

The initial version of the presentation was titled “Heroin is in Your Neighborhood” reflecting the increased popularity of the opiate based drug. Since then, it has been regularly modified to keep up with substance abuse trends, such as the presence of methamphetamine in our communities and the fact that one of the main avenues to drug abuse for young people is through prescription painkillers and anti-depressants. The constant changes in the way that young people become involved in substance abuse and the products and drugs being abused makes it extremely difficult to stay ahead of the curve on this issue, but one thing has remained constant; almost all addicts will start off with nicotine and alcohol.

“There is no doubt that the longer a child stays away from alcohol and tobacco, the better the chance of that child being able to enter young adulthood without the impact of substance abuse,” says D.A. Zappala. “And the more successful we are at preventing substance abuse now, the better our communities will be for the next generation.”

Communication and information remain the two most valuable resources when dealing with the threat of substance abuse. Being able to accept the fact that no matter the situation, every child in our community is a potential victim of substance abuse is vitally important. A recent New York Times article indicated that when communication in a family is lacking, problems that occur tend to be magnified. Even the simple act of setting aside time for a sit down meal can make a significant difference in how a family handles adversity and the pressures and problems that children experience as they age. The fine line involves being able to communicate with children while respecting who they are. The earlier that parents begin to ask questions and set up guidelines for behavior, the easier it will be to carry on that line of communication as children get older.

“We adults need to be better at everything we do,” says Zappala, “we need to be better parents, better leaders and better role models, not just for our own children but for the entire community.”

Mike Manko has served as communications director for District Attorney Stephen Zappala for more than six years and has given the presentation nearly 100 times. If you would like to schedule your group any time during the day or evening, Call Mike at (412) 350-3123.

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