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

The Power to Make Us Quake
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, July 31, 2009

We can suggest techniques to help parents stop allowing themselves to be manipulated, e.g., see Top Three Ways Teens Manipulate; however, the resistance we sometimes have towards changing can be explained best as fear. Remember that it was Franklin D Roosevelt who is given the credit for this quote:

"So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." (FDR's first inaugural address).

The first thing we as parents need to do is face our fear. I don't mean conquer our fear. Conquering our fears will be a journey not a destination, (Aerosmith) but every journey starts with the first step. The first step is to completely and unabashedly admit our fears...

It's not exactly the same as admitting powerlessness in 12-step recovery but it's very similar. Admit that we are powerless over feeling afraid and sometimes even terrified. This is something that we really cannot control. We can to some degree control what we do about it, but there is not a switch we can use to shut off the fear. In fact, our teenagers seem to have a switch they can use to increase our level of fear.

The problem with admitting that we are afraid is that we feel shame when we admit it. We feel horrible that we allow our children to make us quake with fear. And yet, we aren't the only ones feeling this! Parents everywhere are feeling the same thing. Get in touch with it. Allow yourself to feel it.

Ask yourself what does it feel like? Do you feel it in your chest as a sort of tightening? Do you start to breathe more rapidly? Do you tend to hold your breath. What does the anxiety feel like for you?

Just like the addict becoming more powerful when he admits that he is powerless over drugs, you can feel empowered by really admitting that you become very afraid around your teenager. It seems like the wrong approach-as though admitting a weakness is also a weakness; however admitting a weakness is not the weakness but to the contrary. If we are in a state of denial about our fear, we are paralyzed. Once we really admit it, we feel a release of the pressure.

Living with a teen with a drug problem, or for that matter living with anyone with a drug problem is similar to living in a war zone. I have never been in an actual war zone and I don't mean any offense to our brave soldiers who defend our freedoms, but I know that living with an addict can cause a great deal of stress and it's fear that is the root of the stress.

I lived with a family member who was active in addiction. He was not a teenager at the time but I can tell you that I could feel the fear when I drove onto my street and saw that his vehicle was parked in front of the house. Likewise, I could feel the relief if I drove up to my house and saw that his vehicle was not there. If he was home I felt the stress caused by not knowing what was going to happen at any given moment. And yet, there I was trying to walk in the house as though nothing was wrong, as though I was not feeling fearful.

Often we are not in a situation where we can admit it. I mean it would not do for me to walk into my house and say, "Honey I'm home and I'm still terrified." However, there are places and times where it is appropriate and empowering to admit it. Let's look at some of those times.

1. At a PSST meeting.

2. To a friend or to your spouse in private.

3. To your therapist or clergy if you have one.

4. Sometimes it might be OK to mention it to your teenager, e.g., at the time that you are having the conflict.

As to that last one, how would that work to empower us? Consider the following:

Teen: Give me 20 bucks Dad. I need it.

Dad: No.

Teen: Dammit Dad, I told you yesterday I was going to need some money! Do you expect me to be the only one without money tonight? Movies aren't free! I told you I'm not buying drugs; that's the problem with you Dad, you don't trust anybody! You don't even really trust Mom! You're always asking her "what's this charge honey and what's that charge?" She hates that, man. You need to learn to trust. I told you yesterday I needed the money. Now I know you got it - DON'T EVEN TRY TO TELL me YOU Don't have it that's a bunch of horse sh&*.

Dad: You know I feel stressed out when you pressure me like this.

Teen: I'm not pressuring you- hey- UST GIVE ME THE TWENTY BUCKS THEN!

Dad: I'm actually afraid of you when you're like this.

Teen: What? What did you say?

Dad: I'm afraid of you.

Teen: Afraid of me? Why?

Dad: You get so worked up and when you start pressuring me like that I can feel my chest pounding and sometimes I start with a headache. I guess I find you very difficult when your like this and I'm afraid that you are going to really go off- you know have a tantrum, start yelling and throwing things just because you can't have your own way and frankly, I'm afraid of you and of what you'll do.

Teen: That's ridiculous.

Dad: Well, it's how I feel often around you. Like I'm around a bomb and I never know exactly when it will go off.

Teen: You just don't trust me, Dad, just trust me this time- please. I won't spend the money on drugs this time I promise! How are you ever going to learn to trust me if you won't give me a chance?

Dad: Son, do you hear what I'm telling you cause if you need me to wait until you're done speaking then I'll wait and tell you again.

Teen: What? That you're afraid of me?

Dad: Yes.

Teen: That's not what I'm talking about.

Dad: I know. It's what I'm talking about.

Teen: what?

Dad: I'm afraid around you- I never know what you'll do- especially when you don't get your own way- that's the scary part for me. I get sweaty palms and I can feel a real tightness in my chest and it's like I need to get more air or something. Then, sometimes my head hurts too. And sometimes, this is really scary for me too- I know that I give into you just to get you to go away- you know, I actually give into you when I don't feel like it's the right thing to do, just so you'll go away.

Teen: That's fu*&ed up.

Dad: I know I know. Then, it gets worse!

Teen: No way, this is fu*&ed up how could it get any worse?

Dad: Then after I give into you I feel guilty cause I know that's not the right thing to do- so even after you're out of my face- I still feel bad- you see where I'm coming from?

Teen: Look, Dad, you should see your therapist maybe they could give you something for this, but hey, I still need the money OK? I mean you don't want me stealing money or selling drugs to get money do you? Cause I can do that if you want me too.

Dad: I'm afraid of you doing that too Son. So, let me tell you that the threats you're making, you know to steal or rob or sell drugs, that really is part of the pressure that I feel.

Teen: This is way too much information Dad, just give me the 20 bucks already, you know you're going to give it to me in the end.

Dad: You're right Son. In the past I just gave into you and, you know, it kind of helped to teach you that this pressuring thing you do is an effective way to get what you want. Well Son, I'm sorry- I should not have been giving in like that. But hey, I've got new way to look at this now.

Teen: What's that.

Dad: I'm not going to operate out of fear anymore.

Teen: What's that mean?

Dad: When I'm afraid and feeling all stressed out- I won't be making any decisions and I certainly won't be giving money or privileges.

Teen: You are just a scardy cat baby you know that?

Dad: Yes I suppose that has been a good description of me- especially when I just gave in to you so that you would stop pestering me. You're right about that.

Teen: [glaring] So no money huh?

Dad: No money.

Teen: Cause I scare you.

Dad: That's a big part of it.

Teen: So if I calm down and talk nice you'll give me the money?

Dad: No, but I'd like it if you did talk nicer.

Teen: What's the point if you still aren't going to give me the money?

Dad: Good point Son. You know I think you were right earlier when you accused me of not trusting you. I don't trust you. And the more you push me to give you money the less I trust you.

Son: [Glaring] Oh that's just great- so after all the changes I made you still don't trust me?!

Dad: No. And from now on I'm not going to give in and pay you off so you'll go away. And hey, if that means that you'll steal or sell drugs then let me thank you for the warning on that. If I find, and now I'll be looking harder, any stolen items or drugs in my house I'll call the police immediately. But like I said, thanks for the heads up because I wasn't thinking that you'd do that kind of stuff anymore. I thought you were past all that.

Teen: You misunderstood what I said! I didn't say I was going to steal or sell drugs! And anyways, you're the one that would be making me do it-if I did do it and I'm not- cause you won't give me any money!

Dad: I suppose in a way I am responsible then but it's still your decision and you'll deal with whatever consequences happen- just like you always do.

Teen: This is fu&#d up [storms off].

(Notice that these role plays often don't end well. Don't judge the effectiveness of what you do with how your teen responds verbally. The fact that he storms off mad in this scenario only means that he heard you. He heard you and he didn't like what he heard.)

Let's go back to FDR for a minute. I love the way he describes it: "nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes." It is unreasoning because our teens don't have all that much power really, not when you think about it. Similarly, it is unjustified terror. Once again, our children should need us more than we need them at this point in thier lives and really they are not more powerful than us. And the fear paralyzes us and stops us from taking the important steps we need to take.

I'm kind of reaching at the end of this post- I'll admit that- but I've always liked this quote from the Dune Trilogy, a science fiction thriller that I read as a kid.

"I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain."
- Frank Herbert, Dune (Bene Gesserit: Litany Against Fear)

And since I'm quoting now I must put in this one by Dale Carnegie:
"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
- Dale Carnegie

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More on waking up hard-to-wake teen.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, July 19, 2009

We posted on waking up teenager back in March and now we have information from a parent about progess that has been made with one of our hard-to-wake up teens. "About the mornings-[our son] weaned himself off the Seroquel, then he started taking his Concerta BEFORE he goes to bed. When he is at home, mornings are much easier now."

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This question came in from a parent.

How much money should a teenager contribute towards day to day home expenses?

After a little thought, what seemed to be an easy question got a complicated real quick (doesn't it always). The following was my reply. What else should be considered? What did I get wrong? What did I forget? Any personal successes or failures in this area that you want to share? This is a great opportunity to leave comments to help those who cannot attend the meetings.

The answer is complicated because there are so many factors to consider:

  1. Where is the teen working? For example, at a church or a restaurant that sells alcohol?
  2. Why is the teen working? Spending money, college fund, family support,pay back of expenses to the family, restitution?
  3. When is the teen working? 3-5 after school? 11-2 AM?
  4. Is work a location where old friends will be? Is work a place where theteen used or purchased drugs?
  5. How much money does the teen make? Is the teen accountable for how themoney is spent?
  6. How does work impact attending 12 step meetings?
  7. Is a car required?
  8. Is the job really code for unsupervised time away?
  9. All that being said, making payment to support the household is a very positive, symbolic step.

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Home pass from institution. 10 things to keep in mind!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, July 09, 2009

So your teenager is at Abraxas, Ridgeview, or Gateway and he is going to have his first block of time at home. Perhaps it's four hours, eight hours or several nights. What are the most important things to keep in mind?

1. Friends: Home passes are not to spend with friends. They are for family. Make that clear before you start the home pass. If your teenager has a problem with that then don't take him on the home pass. Some institutions make this clear to parents and some do not. This is a chance to flex some parent-muscle and demonstrate that things are going to be different from now on.

2. Home passes are triggers for teens. Supervise your teenager every minute or as close to that as you can: Consider that some teenagers are going to get high on home passes and some will even smuggle drugs back into the rehab. One girl that I used to work with went was on a home pass from Abraxas. She went out to get the mail. Unknown to her parents, she had already arranged with a friend via phone call to have some Heroin dropped off in the mail box. She went back to Abraxas high, smuggled heroin into Abraxas and got busted. The Mom was shocked. "I was with her every minute." Don't underestimate your teen. A home pass is a big relapse trigger.

3. Check your teenagers bedroom with a fine tooth comb before you bring him back home: Often this is when parents find drugs and money. Not only drugs but money should be confiscated because it was probably drug dealing money. Sometimes they hide things in the basement too.

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

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

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

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

Exceptions to this smoking rule might be if you smoke and you plan to smoke in front of him. That might be cruel. If he is 18 or over, the rehab might not care if he smokes on his home pass- check with his counselor and see how he feels about it.

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

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

8. Consider the music your teenager is listening to on the home pass- does it have a negative message? Then don't permit it. Confiscate it.

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

10. Don't keep secrets. No matter how small, if your teenager asks you not to tell his therapist that he has done something, e.g., smoked, saw a friend, has a fight with you, ran off without supervision, failed to attend a 12-step meeting, or just about anything else that he thought it important enough to ask you not to report on- DON'T do it. Secrets keep us sick and, once again, if you keep secrets on home passes, he has every right to expect you to keep secrets once he released back home. This is where he will try to guilt you. "Awww you're going to ruin everything! Just when I worked so hard! You don't want me to come home at all, do you? Click here to read more on how teenagers guilt parents on a regular basis as a manipulative technique.

Parents of PSST: please let me know what other things you think are important to consider by leaving a comment. If you are having trouble leaving a comment you can email to me at lloyd.woodward@court.allegheny.pa.us

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Alert! New Schedule in effect so this is our ONLY meeting at Wexford in July.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, July 06, 2009

Lets hope for a nice turnout on July 11th. Our Wexford chapter has at times been our biggest meeting. I also think we have some good news to share about one or two teens whose parents have been suporting the Wexford PSST. Parent helping parent is a powerful thing...and we see it all the time in PSST.

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Power statement: I am disappointed...
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, July 02, 2009

It is much more powerful to say "I am disappointed that you didn't stay home when I told you to stay home," than it is to say "It's disappointing that you didn't stay home."

Both comments technically mean the same thing; however, the first one personalizes what is going on and hits a ten on the power meter. The second one impersonalizes what is going on. The second one could be referring to the stock market or a movie but the first one is talking about being hurt or let down or feeling betrayed.

Depending on what exactly happened, we should be careful not to overuse this power phrase. Keep it handy for things that are really important.

Mom: I am very disappointed that, after we talked about this and talked about how important this is to me, that you did not stay home yesterday. When I got home from work you were already gone.

Daughter: I asked Dad. He said I could go. You're not the only parent here you know!

Mom: Dad was not here when you and I talked. I am disappointed that you would ask Dad when I was already clear with you on this.

Daughter: You act like I don't do anything good around here. I did a load of laundry before I went out you know- that was to help you out- and look at all the changes I've made since I've quit using drugs. And I'm staying clean. And I gave up all my old friends. Nothing I do is ever good enough for you!

Mom: You have made a lot of changes. You are busy changing yourself. I do appreciate the effort you made by throwing in a load of laundry. Remind me that we need to talk about the best ways to do laundry- but you are so right honey, you are changing and you are making a effort.

Daughter: [glaring]

Mom: Listen, you know when you were doing drugs, I didn't have a lot of control over you. As parents, your father and I really struggle to keep in control here.

Daughter: So?

Mom: I like the changes you're making. You father and I are making some changes too. It's hard to change. We want to be better parents and we want to do a better job of holding you and your sisters accountable. So...

Daughter: Oh is the part where you get tough on us? (sarcastically uttered)

Mom: Yes- for example- I need to know that if you and I talk and I make it clear that you will not go out- that you will not go out. I need to know that you won't go ask you father for a different answer or that you won't just walk out on me anyways. I need to trust that you will be here when I need you to be here even when you don't agree with me and even when you get mad about it.

Daughter: You'll never trust me Mom. That's just the way you are.

Mom: Nevertheless, I need to know that you'll be here when I tell you to be here. I have asked your therapist from the rehab to meet with us and help all of us come up with a contract. From now on, your father and I will be holding you accountable for your behavior. We haven't been good at this in the past but we are going to try it again. I need your help. I need you to work with us.

Daughter: What do you mean hold us accountable? In what way?

Mom: It's going to involve a lot of stuff that you won't like. You'll be pretty mad about it. You know stuff like taking away TV, cell phone, computer privileges, not giving you the money that we would have given you - stuff like that.

Daughter: It's not going to work! I'll go out anyways.

Mom: I'm disappointed. I hoped that I could count on you to help us out.

Daughter: Not if you're going to take my sh*# away!

Mom: Well, right. OK. That's your position. Thanks for making your position clear. You'll have to make your own decisions about these things and were going to do what we have to do, but at least we can all sit down and talk about the contract. That way you'll have a chance to tell your side of the story. But in the meantime you are grounded. If you go out anyways then your father and I will talk about cancelling your phone and pulling the plug on your TV and computer. Now I didn't want to do that without letting you know first that it could happen. I'm letting you know now. I have informed your father that you are grounded so now that he knows he won't be agreeing to let you out.

Daughter: Why? Give me one good reason why I should be grounded.

Mom: OK sure. But you and I could talk all night about this one, honey, and I won't convince you that you should be grounded. So, I'll tell you why one time and then we'll drop it because I know you don't and you won't agree with this. [Mom then gives a brief explanation that might be something like: "You continue to associate with your old friends that use drugs. That is unacceptable."]

Daughter: [glares] You can take my phone I still won't stay home.

Mom: That's going to be up to you. If you're sure you can turn your phone into me now. It's up to you. Think about it- I gotta go put those clothes in the laundry again. Oh honey, I love it that you did a load of laundry- Thank You So Much. Now let me show you how you can do that better next time, OK?

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