Quote of the Week

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

Emily's Progress - Or Lack of It.
Posted by:Sally--Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Here is a small update on Emily written by Emily's mom. Life is unpredictable and tough, just when you think you have got a hang of how it all works, it changes. I know your heart is broken, mom, but hang in there

Here is a quote that helps me at times. "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."
-Ernest Hemingway
I encourage any readers who have a bit of wisdom or a thought on this to post it.

Just when I thought I could breathe a little easier, the walls came crashing down yet again. Emily AWOL'ed from her RTF, went to the nearest grocery store, stole some Nyquil and drank almost the whole bottle until she was found by the RTF staff. Even after nearly a year away from home and in the system, her cravings are obviously still strong. I am devastated. Her Consent Decree hearing is scheduled for May 3rd. This means that the charges from last year that would have been dropped, should she have successfully completed treatment at the RTF, will now go on her Juvenile record and the new charge of shoplifting will also be added. This is what I did not want for her or her future. She really did herself in this time. The sad thing? She still blames everyone except herself. She still has no remorse and takes no personal responsibility for what she did. I am furious with her. When will she stop playing the victim? When will she want to get better? EVER? I am furious. I have stopped taking her calls and have no intentions on visiting her until I see her investing in working toward making some positive changes within herself. God only knows when that will be.

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Protect Our Doubts - by Paulo Coelho
Posted by:Sally--Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rocco was thinking of Emily's mom and Emily's Progress and we both thought these words of wisdom were apropriate.

Protect our doubts, because Doubt is a way of praying. It is Doubt that makes us grow because it forces us to look fearlessly at the many answers that exist to one question.


Protect our doubts, because Doubt is a way of praying. It is Doubt that makes us grow because it forces us to look fearlessly at the many answers that exist to one question.
And in order for this to be possible...

Protect our decisions, because Decisions is a way of praying. Give us the courage, after our doubts, to be able to choose between one road and another. May our YES always be a YES, and our NO always be a NO. Once we have chosen our road, may we never look back nor allow our soul to be eaten away by remorse.
And in order for this to be possible...

Protect our actions, because Action is a way of praying. May our daily bread be the result of the very best that we carry within us. May we, through work and Action, share a little of the love we receive.
And in order for this to be possible...

Protect our dreams, because to Dream is a way of praying. Make sure that, regardless of our age or our circumstances, we are capable of keeping alight in our heart the sacred flame of hope and perseverance.
And in order for this to be possible...

Protect our enthusiasm, because Enthusiasm is a way of praying. It is what binds us to the Heaven and to Earth, to grown-ups, and to children; it is what tells us that our desires are important and deserve our best efforts. It is Enthusiasm that reaffirms to us that everything is possible, as long as we are totally committed to what we are doing.
And in order for this to be possible...

Protect our "us"; Because Life is the only way we have of making manifest Your miracle. May the earth continue to transform seeds into wheat, may we continue to transmute wheat into bread. And this is only possible if we have Love; therefore, do not leave us in solitude. Always give us Your company and the company of men and women who have doubts, who act and dream and feel enthusiasm, and who live each day as if it were totally dedicated to Your glory.


Paulo Coelho - Brazilian lyricist and novelistIn 1996, Coelho founded the Paulo Coelho Institute, which provides aid to children and elderly people with financial problems. In September 2007, Coelho was named a Messenger of Peace to the United Nations.

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A Walk in the Park with Cisco and The Beagle
Posted by:Sally--Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hi, it has been a while since I filled you in on our family and how we are progressing. We are changing (for the better) and I feel that y'all have been such good friends and confidants as you listened to my stories.... From the emotional Roller Coaster I rode when Cisco relapsed to the declaration that The Spell Has Been Broken! Well, we are at the crossroads once again. Cisco will soon successfully complete his stay in the Gateway YES program. We are so proud of his progress. It certainly is a natural 'mom thing' to want him home and want the memories of his actions to fade away like a bad dream. Never the Less, addictions don't easily go away, addictions are deceitful, cunning and baffling. It took me three months to process that he is not yet ready to come home. He is not yet strong enough to master this deceitful, cunning and baffling enigma.

Cisco had another three hour pass on Saturday; Rocco was out of town on business so I trekked out on my own to see him. Well, I wasn't completely alone, I took The Beagle with me. The Beagle is good company for a long drive but I will make a mental note for next time not to share my happy meal with The Beagle because he does get car sick.

Cisco and I walked in the park and talked about many things. He was respectful and introspective. We talked about some things that really matter. Like what he needs to do to stay clean and how often he feels like using. Cisco wants to get a job and finish his GED so that he can take some college courses. He is talking positively about moving on to Liberty Station (an adolescent halfway house).

Cisco is not as self-centered as he used to be. Because of his placement, he has not been able to see his 89 year old grandpap since January. He wants us to tell grandpap where he is so that grandpap can see him. He is afraid grandpap just thinks Cisco is not visiting him because he doesn't care about him.

Cisco's probation officer said we have a court date coming up soon. I asked him if he foresees a problem with getting Liberty Station court ordered. Lloyd feels that the public defender will fight it and may get Cisco riled up about going there. Let me tell you one thing for the record. I am ready for a fight with any ol' P.D. It took me some time to process that Cisco needs more help but now Rocco and I have both come to the conclusion that he does. We have all worked too hard to get Cisco to where he is today and I am not going to drop the ball now.

I will keep you posted. Thanks for listening.

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Max and Mels Terrible Adventure
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our younger son, David, is 14 1/2. He was always a kid with lots of nice friends, kids with involved parents. Even as he moved from elementary school to middle school, the friends he chose always seemed to have a home with a parent who was paying attention......

With a cell and house number I could (and did) call. He played lots of sports: was on 2 baseball and 2 basketball teams. Was the star pitcher. Was a pretty good golfer. He was a "sought after playmate" according to teachers. He was always having friends over, meeting them at the field for games, going to summer camp, ect. All parents whose homes he frequented told me what a great kid he was - always a pleasure and always welcome. School was a slightly different matter; he was diagnosed with ADHD as a young kid, and as having mild dyslexia in about 3rd grade. Because of this, school was always difficult & stressful. I have had hired tutors for him for after school support since 1st grade, and he always responded well to them, and did better because of them. Homework was always a hassle, for the aforementioned reasons. Because of these issues, and because of David's older brother Michael's poor experience with the public high school, we decided last year that a boarding school would be the best option for David's high school. We planned to find one that provided built in academic support for his learning needs, and some built in behavior modification for his somewhat oppositional demeanor. This is still in the works...

Max and Mel's Terrible Adventure, Part II

My husband Mel, son Michael and I were sitting at dinner one night at the beginning of this school year, last fall. David was to be home for dinner, but was late (again) - he had been not coming home for dinner more and more lately. He also had a new crew of friends that Mel and I weren't too thrilled with. They were from a different neighborhood, and from homes that suddenly didn't have numbers that anyone would hand out. The parents didn't seem to care if they met me or knew who I was. We had been talking to David about this, and tried to encourage him to reconnect with some other friends, while understanding a teen's need to try new people, and not be told with whom they can hang out. The phone rings. It's Officer Jones saying he has David in the squad car, that he was high, that he had confiscated marijuana from his possession. I drove to the exact house in the exact neighborhood that I knew this took place. Was told we would be receiving something in the mail. Took David home, screaming my lungs out at him all the way - not the best choice, I now know, but the only thing I could think of at the moment. We grounded him. Took away his telephone. Forbid him to hang out with these undesirable friends...we did our best to sit on him, punish him, limit him socially. David didn't seem to be as rattled about this incident as I expected he would be. So my plan was, when we got something in the mail, I would jump in and make sure he got what he deserved. It seemed to take forever, but finally something arrived that happened to have Val Ketter's name on the letterhead. BINGO. I called and said "I need help with this kid -- he needs to be rattled - can we get him a PO or something, so he understands the seriousness of this situation?" And, that is how I found PSST. Not long after, Val hooked us up with David's PO, Larissa. Larissa is a tough woman, who made sure David knew that it would take her very little to send him to Shuman, which thankfully frightened him. She made David sign a contract to go to rehab at Gateway, to attend school, and to get periodic drug tests. He signed.

Max and Mel's Terrible Adventure, Part III

David went to one-on-one counseling for D & A at Gateway as instructed. He did not stop smoking Marijuana, as his test results clearly showed, so he was referred to the Adolescent program, 3 days per week, 3:30 - 7pm. He started skipping school with these newfound friends, hiding in my basement, breaking in through the basement window when they couldn't get in the house. Smoked pot in the house (out the window), left evidence around. I had him taken to the Magistrate for skipping. He was disrespectful to him, and was therefore given a double fine. Lost a text book for $100. Stole money from us. His accumulated debt, which started with fees incurred by the first incident, now hovers around $1000. We have given him lots of opportunities to work it off, but he refuses. Refuses to be grounded by us ("I don't care, I'm leaving anyway"). He has not played a sport, not even skateboarded. Doesn't want to go to camp this year. His oppositional behavior has become more pronounced, not adjusting his attitude for teachers, principles, magistrates and certainly not his parents. At Gateway, his THC counts rose. He is now considered "Partial", 3 days per week, 3:30 - 9pm,. Refuses to go to AA/NA meetings, which are required. On Wednesday the 24th, David informed me he was suspended from school the following day because he did not attend his after school detention (which, by the way, he received from accumulating several lunch detentions, those received because he either talked back to a teacher, disrupted the class, refused to pull up his jeans, etc). I said he was officially grounded at that time through the day of his suspension. He said "no I'm NOT" , and jumped out of the car (not before asking me for money, to which I said "no") and slammed the door. Mel and I attended the family meeting at Gateway anyway, even though we knew he wasn't going to be there, and discussed with the group our situation. Everyone in attendance - the therapists and other kids said, "he needs to be kicked out of the house, the locks changed, and not allowed back in unless he is willing to follow house rules." He simply hasn't had serious enough consequences to shake him up. Mel and I were ready - we had enough.

Max and Mel's Terrible Adventure: The Final Showdown

With the help of the PSST group and the very brave parents who came before us - along with the guidance and help of the great people at Gateway, we had our final showdown, last Thursday, March 25th. We could never, ever have done this without knowing others who have been through it as well, and lived to tell the tale.
David "came home for a shower" after staying out Wednesday night, even bringing with him his most egregious friend. We stopped him in his tracks and said - "We cannot tolerate your behavior and lack of cooperation any longer. You are no longer allowed in the house unless you plan to follow the house rules. Otherwise, if you go, be prepared to stay out. We are changing the locks today. If you break in, or try to break in, we will call the police". He left.
Even though we feel confident that we did the right thing, the best thing for him in the long run, we are sad, worried, and unsure of what to do next. We haven't seen nor spoken to him since last Thursday. We are hoping that he tires of running from house to house, and will want to come home. I am looking forward to some much needed support from anyone who has been there, done that - as well as talking it out this coming Saturday.

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Who is the big dog at your house? Featured technique: use of "NOW"
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Thursday, March 25, 2010

While we have no magic words in Parenting Skills, we do have words when used with a certain approach, can work like magic. Consider the word "NOW." If we mean it when we say it and if we are prepared to remain in our teenager's face when we say it (without yelling about it) we can see a dramatic shifting of power.

Here's the basic idea: if we can do something to get our teenager's behavior where we want it, without punishing and without bribery or inappropriate rewarding, then we are way ahead of the Who's In Charge Game.

For example, your teenager has dirty dishes in his room. You have asked him over and over again to bring the dishes down and it's always the same response: "OK, in a minute." But the minute never comes. As a parent you are getting angrier and angrier and you fear that bugs or rodents might make a move on your teenager's room and of course infest the whole house.

Of course, you can threaten to take his cell phone or his Halo video game if he doesn't clean up his room but then you are into punishment. Of course, we sometimes need punishment in order to hold our teenagers accountable; however, it is much better if we can hold our teenager's accountable without punishment. One way to do this is by saying and meaning the word NOW.

So, how does it work? When you spot the dishes and glasses in his room walk in and confront him by saying something like this:

Dad: Son, I need these dishes and glasses carried downstairs.

Son: I'll get it later Dad, I'm busy playing this game [substitute watching this show or texting this girl].

Dad: [Dad moves in closer to his son so that he is about a foot away but he keeps his voice low and calm and he has good strong eye-contact] Not later Son; I need you to do it now.

Son: I said I was busy Dad I'll get it in a minute![Son is getting a tad louder at this point]

Dad: Regardless, Son I need this carried down now. [Dad is using strong eye contact and now he is narrowing the gap, only about 10 inches from his son now and as he leans in to confront his son you can feel the power. When we did the role-play in group we could all feel the power. You might call it the Power of Command.]

At this point Dad is committed. He must stick with it until the dishes are carried downstairs. He has invoked the sacred word, "NOW" and if he invokes this word and then does not see the task through, then the word may never work the same for him again. It's magic will wane.

Therefore, DO NOT USE THIS WORD unless you really mean it and are prepared to drop everything and stay with your teenager until task is accomplished. No threats are necessary and in fact, threatening at this point might be counter-productive and cause unnecessary resentment.

Threats are overkill. Likewise, once a teenager carries the dishes and glasses downstairs do not follow that up with a lecture or with a punishment. It does not help at that point to say, "See wasn't that easy, don't you wish that you just did that on you own without me having to point it out." That' s sort of rubbing the teenagers' nose in it if you will, and it is now much more gracious to say, "Thanks Son, I appreciate that." Once the teenager has carried the stuff downstairs you are free to give him some positive verbal reinforcement.

The reason that threats and punishments are not necessary is that the Dad has one huge advantage over the teenager. The teenager really really wants the Dad to go away so that he can resume his texting, TV watching, or game playing. Dad, on the other hand has nothing better to do at the moment except stand there and get close to his son's face and keep repeating:

Dad: I want that carried downstairs now Son.
Son: Why? Give me one good reason that crap has to be carried down now.

TRAP ALERT: Yes you have a million good reasons for wanting that stuff carried down right now but don't give him anything other than that's just the way you want it done. That's it. Otherwise, he will debate you endlessly and probably win.

Dad: I need you to carry that stuff down now Son. It's time for carrying not for asking questions.

Son: Give me one good reason why now?

Dad: You need to move that stuff now Son- that's the reason.

Son: That's not a reason.

Dad: Nevertheless, you need to carry these plates and glasses down to the kitchen now, Son.

A parent tried this technique recently and it worked brilliantly for him. He used it with the glasses and plates and food accumulating in his teenagers room, other chores like garbage that needed taken out, and even having some of his clothes returned that the teenager had "borrowed." Teenagers will usually comply with the demand for "NOW" once they realize that the parent is not going away until the task is completed.

Another benefit: using the NOW word and having your teenager comply means that you are the dominant in-charge adult at your house. Now your teen will have accepted that. The more you do this kind of thing the more you establish yourself as the boss. This means that you now speak with the voice of someone who is in charge. More important issues like curfew, drug abuse, hanging with old friends, and disrespectful behaviors are going to be easier to approach because you now speak with the voice of authority. Does that mean these issues won't come up? Of course not. These issues will continue to come up but now you as a parent have the dominant stance and that's going to give you the edge. You are the big dog.

Consider the other way: You nag nag nag your teenager to bring those cups downstairs. He says "OK later," but he never does it. The dishes stack up until one of two things happen. Either all your dishes are now in your teenager's bedroom or you go in and take them downstairs for him. Either way, he is in the dominant position of power and you are in the submissive position. Now you get bigger issues such as curfew, drug abuse, and hanging with old friends.

You tell him that he better straighten up and fly right. Why should he listen to you? You're the same parent who was not strong enough to get him to bring his dishes downstairs so there is no way he is going to come in when you say. He is the big dog of the house now and he knows it.

Who ever said "don't sweat the small stuff" wasn't working with defiant teenagers. It's important to sweat some, but not all, of the small stuff. It keeps you eating out of the big dog dish so to speak.

So get between your teenager and the TV he is watching. Take the cell phone he is texting on if that is going to get his attention. Stay with him until he gets off his butt and takes that garbage out. Sooner or later he will do those things just because he doesn't want you to pull the do it now thing on him and that's when you know two things. One: you are the one in charge. And two: you are teaching your teenager responsibility.

I'm going to write more about other ways to keep your dominant position of power in the next continuing post. Stay tuned for Who is the big dog part-two.

If you've tried this and it's worked for you-please leave us a comment about it.

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A Mom's Insight into Missing Memories Part 2
Posted by:Rocco--Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Here is the next part of a mom’s missing memories. Lori shared this in 2008. Her story touches all families of teenage addicts.

Losing a Teenager and Gaining an Adult - by Lori

"When dealing with a teenage drug addict, you will find many typical teenage events that never happen and many memories that will never be. And regardless of how much we try to force them to be, they still will never be. And there are still many more memories that are painful and we would rather forget…"

To continue with Lori's story, use the link below or click on the title of this post above:

Losing a Teenager and Gaining an Adult - Part 2 of 6 - by Lori

Each week I will post the next entry or you can link to them through the PSST blog.

Thank you Lori - This helps us understand and cope. We are just now going through this realization ourselves at this time.


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A Letter of Commendation from a Grateful Parent
Posted by:Sally--Monday, March 22, 2010

Here is a letter from just one of the many parents who is so thankful to have found the help and dedication she needed from Kathie of Wesley Spectrum, Val & Lloyd of PSST and Lynn from Act 53. We will call her "Ethel" and her daughter "Lucy". (Click play button on black scree to view video.)

From: Ethel PSST Parent
To: Judge Kim Eaton Subject: A heartfelt thanks, Kim
Date: Thu, Oct 22, 2009 10:58 Pm
Attachments: Numerous pictures of Lucy at Graduation and in Navy uniform.

Hi Kim, I hope this can be one of the success stories that make the sometimes-depressing job of presiding over Family Court worth it.

Permit me to thank you. And share. And gloat a little (as a mom).

Lucy graduated Navy Boot Camp a week ago. Had I known the Navy would do in 8 weeks that which I could not do in 18 years, I would have relaxed a little more over all those years. LOL.

Please count us as a “success story.” That never would have happened without so many wonderful people in the Allegheny County Court system.

It was a rough, difficult 16 (or so)years.

You were the first one- who took me on as a client, who believed in my story. And then gave me an affordable way to do this. I never heard an attorney say, “You know this system by now and can handle it on your own. You don’t need to rack up more attorney fees.” Very grateful for that.

Then Lynn Redick from Act 53: Years later, when the fall-out of our divorce really set in, and Lucy went off the deep end; she saved our lives.

Lloyd Woodward, Juvenile Probation Officer extraordinaire. His Boss Val Ketter- they saved our lives. They started the Parent Survival Skills Training (PSST).

And especially Kathie Tagmyer (family therapist) from Wesley Spectrum. There are no words to express my (and Lucy’s) gratitude for how she has helped. She is now working closely with Lloyd and Val with PSST.

All four of them have gone above and beyond the call of duty for me and so many other parents and their children. If there is any award they can be nominated for or more importantly, any funding PSST can receive to help them do their wonderful work, please let me know. I would go to any length to see that they are recognized for what they do. I could also muster dozens of other parents to do the same.

All of you brought this family through some dark days.

Now for the good part: Lucy graduated Navy Boot Camp last week. She is firmly and happily ensconced in Gulfport MS training to be a Seabee. She is a sailor through and through. It is astounding to me that only 2 years ago; this was the daughter who would put cigarettes out in her palm to see if she was drunk enough.

I have always believed a picture is worth a thousand words. I am attaching 2: one before and one after. The first is the day she is leaving for Boot Camp. The second is Navy Boot Camp graduation day. I wish I had a photo from the really dark days- pre Act 53 and rehab. It was much much worse.

You, Lynn, Kathie, Lloyd, and Val will always be carried in my heart. If there is ANYTHING I can do to repay this gift, let me know.

BTW, Lucy’s father also came to her graduation. He was actually tolerable. Without Kathie’s intervention, I don’t think he could have been there for her.


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Summary of March 20th PSST Meeting in Mt Lebanon
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, March 21, 2010

The resoluteness and mindfulness of the parents as they spoke about their teenagers this Saturday was so inspiring to me. I think one particular single mom taught me about tough love and made me realize that I was feeling sorry for myself and my son in our situation. The firm love and dedication of another couple was so apparent that I left the meeting with a new outlook.
As always the meeting helped me tremendously. I wish all parents with issues were there to experience it. Eight parents attended and we were lead by Lloyd, Val and Kathie. After we got an update of each family's situation we learned and laughed with some role-plays.
We were made aware that April 20th is "GET HIGH DAY". Also, on April 17th Jim Musiol from DTx will speak at our Mt Lebanon meeting. He will inform us on what kids do to get a negative reading on drug tests. Parents who attend PSST may purchase drug tests from Jim. These are very accurate drug test used by many agencies and will be sold at a reasonable price. Check out the website http://www.1stepdtx.com/

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Looking for a Few Good Men
Posted by:Rocco--Wednesday, March 17, 2010

We like bumper stickers. The other day we saw one that read:

“Real Men Don’t Ask for Directions”

Sally laughed at me for laughing at it. Well just let me say that if I ever do get LOST, I will ask for directions. Regardless, until I have crossed more than one state line or burned an entire tank of gas, then I am probably not LOST. I feel that I am going exactly the way that I intended to. I will circle around for hours, while saying things like, "Hey, I know we’re in the right neighborhood. I recognize that 7-11" and "Hang on, it looks like I've found a new way to get there." I will even admit that a few weeks back I “found a new way to get there” while ignoring my GPS.

This tendency has been labeled as a stubborn thing, a pride thing, a “lack of trust” thing, a childish thing or a macho thing.

Whatever it is, it is definitely a “Man Thing.”

About a year ago I had to admit that we were totally lost. We were in desperate need for new directions on how to navigate this whole teenage addiction thing. We have been attending PSST meetings since then. We have learned some new skills, taken back control of our lives and have our son on his way to recovery. We have met a lot of caring and concerned people, both professionals and our fellow parents.

Something that we have both noticed though is that the parent that is attending the meeting is typically the Mom. And that is okay. Nevertheless the meetings usually have about 4 or 5 women to each guy. In addition to the case of the Single Mom there are probably other reasons for the Dads not making it in; work, appointments, younger sisters and brothers to care for and, from our very own experience, not wanting to leave our son and our home unprotected. Hopefully this shortage is not a stubborn thing, a pride thing, a “lack of trust” thing, a childish thing or a macho thing.

We would like to have a few more good men attending our PSST Meetings on Saturday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. You are cordially invited to sit in, discuss, contribute, consider some ideas, ask questions, express your point of view and help develop some innovative solutions.

Maybe you can even (shudder at the thought) pick up some new directions.

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Free Professional Training Conference
Posted by:Sally--Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Reducing Risk: Understanding the Adolescent Brain
Wondering why teens and adults don't see eye to eye?
This free conference may help.

Searching for better strategies to protect adolescents?
Looking for effective ways to prevent alcohol, tobacco & other drug use?
Register now for a one day conference for school professionals including: counselors, SAP coordinators, administrators, health teachers, curriculum specialists; and for tobacco prevention and cessation specialists; community providers; student assistance program professionals; health professionals and other adolescent gatekeepers. This training will be conducted by the Director and staff of Addiction Medicine Services, Western Psychiatric Institute & Clinic, UPMC, including two Commonwealth of PA approved Student Assistance Program CAT (CAT) Trainers. CEU Credits are available to participants: Act 48 – 5 credits, CAC / CPS, NBCC, LSW/LCSW/LPC/LMFT.
Training conferences will be held in four locations : April 7 (State College), April 14 (Stroudsburg), April 20 ( Westmoreland Co. Community College ), and April 23 (Clarion).

For additional details or to register, go to: www.tobaccofreeallegheny.org

The Pennsylvania Department of Health Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control, the Bureau of Drug and Alcohol Programs, and the Department of Education, Division of Student and Safe School Services are jointly sponsoring this training, which is endorsed and supported by the Student Assistance Program (SAP) Interagency Committee.
Participants will receive a copy of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) curriculum series: The Brain: Understanding Neurobiology through the Study of Addiction and related evidenced based materials, as well as a copy of Pennsylvania ’s 100% Tobacco Free Schools Toolkit. Included with the NIH curriculum is a CD Rom containing lesson plans and other materials for use in the class room.
Conference Faculty:
· Cele Fichter DeSando, MPM is the director for prevention at Addiction Medicine Services, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic (WPIC), UPMC as an author, and national conference presenter with more than 25 years in the field, Ms Fichter-DeSando is an oft- requested trainer on addiction-related topics.

· Marge Modro, MS, CPS is a Commonwealth of PA approved Student Assistance Program trainer for Addiction Medicine Services, WPIC, UPMC. Ms Modro is certified as a Pennsylvania prevention specialist and holds national certification as a crisis management trainer and receives high praise for her evidenced-based trainings.

· Susan Tarasevich, Ed.D is a nationally recognized leader in the design, implementation and evaluation of Student Assistance Programs and is a Commonwealth of PA approved Student Assistance Program trainer for Addiction Medicine Services, WPIC, UPMC. Dr. Tarasevich is sought after for her expertise in the strategic application of research-based principles.

Phyllis Zitzer
Public Health Program Administrator
Division of Tobacco Prevention and Control
Bureau of Health Promotion and Risk Reduction
Pennsylvania Department of Health
625 Forster Street Room 1032 Health & Welfare Building
Harrisburg , PA 17120-0701
Phone: 717-783-6600 Fax: 717-214-6690
Email: pzitzer@state.pa.us

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A Mom's Insight into Missing What Didn't Happen
Posted by:Rocco--Monday, March 15, 2010

During a recent visit with our son at Gateway YES he expressed his unhappiness that his addiction had cheated him out of his teenage years. We strongly agreed with him. We as a family had lost what should have been some of our best memories.

A few years ago PSST parent (who we know as Lori) was compassionate enough to post the story of her teen's drug addiction. She wrote about the consequences of his addiction, not just his consequences, but the whole family's.

Losing a Teenager and Gaining an Adult - Part 1 of 6 - by Lori

“I describe the events leading to my realization that I had lost my teenager to drugs and the steps I took to cope with that realization, get my son help, and rebuild my family with our new adult son in drug recovery. I am offering my story to help raise the awareness of the teen drug problem, to help destroy the stereotype of the drug addiction as being an inner city issue, and to share some of the lessons I have learned with the hope that they may benefit you and your family...

...I still need my son to be 9 years old, because I am still waiting for all those teenage things that have yet to happen. I am still waiting for a relationship with my teenage son. Helping him with high school projects, driving him to school because he missed the bus, talking about his friends, a girlfriend, seeing him at school events, helping him pick a suit for the prom, having those special moments with him when everyone else has gone to bed, hanging his senior pictures by his sister’s, talking to him about who to invite to his graduation party and watching him grow into a man. I picture myself spending time with him talking about life, talking about what he wants from life, spending weekends with him visiting universities, and watching him begin to realize his dreams. I am still waiting for those moments. And I continue to search my memory for these events, but they never happened. How can he be 21 years old?"

To start Lori's story, use the link below or click on the titile of this post above:

Losing a Teenager and Gaining an Adult - Part 1 of 6 - by Lori

Each week I will post the next entry or you can link to them through the PSST blog.

Thank you Lori - This is a big help to us. We are just now going through this realization ourselves.


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A Summary of the PSST - March 13th Meeting
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, March 14, 2010

A lot was accomplished at the PSST meeting at Trinity Lutheran Church in Wexford this past Saturday. We had eleven parents show up; three of which were new to the meetings. As they told their stories about their teenagers the regular attendees understood well. We also had congratulations for one parent who we haven't seen in a long time. She came to tell us the good news about her son. He graduated from college and has been in recovery for a few years now. Val, Lloyd and Kathie enlightened us with their practical knowledge and helped us through some rough dicisions with their genuine concern.

The role plays really sharpened our ability to deal with our teenagers. They were played out well by several parents. We went over the following techniques: NeverTheLess/Regardless, I'm NOT Comfortable with That, Ask Me Again Ask Me Again. We learned to agree with something the teenager is saying and then twist the conversation around to what they need to hear. One mother in her role-play used the very effective "I will do whatever it takes to keep you safe." routine. We learned also how important our body language is when speaking with our teens.

Rocco and I attended the PSST meeting and then we moved on to Gateway YES to pick up Cisco for his first three hour pass. Lloyd commented on Rocco and my dedication in attending his PSST meeting on the same day that Cisco had a pass. Heck, Rocco and I were there to be empowered. Once again, we were! We used most of the techniques listed above in our three hour visit with Cisco. The visit went well. I will have to get you caught up on Ciscos's story when I get a chance. All is well, hope to see you at the next meeting.

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Sally wrote great summary of our March 13th (see above) and I would like to add a couple thoughts.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, March 14, 2010

One of our roleplays featured a parent saying something to the effect of: "Yes, I did report you to your PO and I'll bust your a$$ again to keep you safe from drugs." This was very powerful. This is a talking point that PSST encourages parents to use. See some of our other talking points by clicking on the Talking Points brochure (Ken) on the right side of this post. You can access it in both Word and PDF formats.

1. I will do anything I can to keep you safe.

2. I will not keep secrets for you.

3. I will call the police, your PO, the school, neighbors, your friends parents, or anyone else I think can help me keep you safe from drugs.

These are a few of the messages that are on the Talking Points brochure. Another parent in group mentioned something like, "If you walk out that door I'm going to be on the phone with every parent of each of your friends and I'm going to tell them that you don't listen to me, that you continue to do illicit drugs, and that they should really take a good look at what their teens are up to." This was not a roleplay, but this is what she actually told her teenager who was trying walk out the door. He didn't go.

Also, Lori was at our meeting. This is her pen name and if you would like to read some of her writings on our blog, Rocco just reprinted the first of a six part series that Lori wrote a while back. Also, you can put "Lori" in our search window in the upper left hand corner. One of the things she said at our meeting in response to a parent who was asking "Why did my teen say ______?" Paraphrasing her response: "Your teenager just wants to manipulate you. You take what he said seriously and respond in a thoughtful manner. Meanwhile, as you are talking to your teen, all he hears is "Blah, blah, blah" and what he's thinking is "How can I get 20 bucks off this bi!@#." It was a funny moment.

At one point Lori was telling a new parent that she needs to be more concerned about her teens drug problem than she is about the possibility that he might have a juvenile record. Of course, at PSST we agree with that; and yet, we appreciate that parents are concerned about the possibility of a juvenile record.

Val pointed out that Consent Decrees carry no Juvenile Record and that teens with Misdemeanors can have their records expunged just by going downtown to the Family Court House and signing a piece of paper. I think this is a good subject for a separate post. At the least we should add that to the Should I get My Teen a PO post.

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When the going gets weird, The weird....get green food coloring
Posted by:Sally--Monday, March 08, 2010

Contributed by an anonymous single mom

When I first realized that drug testing was going to be yet another part of my single-mom job description, I really wanted a do over, because well—yuck.

I’m still waiting for my “17 again” reprieve, but I did figure out a way to use the past even if I never get to revisit it. Here’s what happened:

In the beginning, I thought that the whole "single mom of a teenage son" situation meant that this new opportunity for life experience would be too weird to handle properly. Then I remembered the good old days when my biggest problem seemed to be my plumbing. What I learned from that mess was about to serve me in fresh ways, back then my plumber had me use green dye tablets to see if the water from my toilet tank was migrating to the bowl. You can imagine my joy when I realized that I could use food coloring, leftover from cookies and craft projects, in much more inventive ways. And you know what they say; it really is good to create new memories with your child.

So, here’s the process: I turn off the water to the house first. It’s an old house, and I’m the only one who knows where the valve is. I do this for two reasons. First, I eliminate the flushing and refilling problem. Second, I do not want to get him mad when he inevitably isn’t as interested in this version of family time as I am, but I do know that he’ll want to get a shower eventually. So I tell him, “I can turn on the water as soon as you fill the cup,” as if I won’t have the ability to find or move the water valve until the cup gives the missing skills back to me. Perfect.

I flush the toilets after turning off the valve to remove as much water in the tank and bowl as possible. That’s probably just overkill. Like the Chicago River on St. Patrick’s Day, one flush by your offspring probably isn’t going to get rid of all that green. But I digress. Just like any plumber would tell you, coloring toilet water only requires a few drops in the tank and bowl of every toilet, which makes me grateful for my more modest circumstances and limited number of bathrooms.

So, I hope that if the going gets weird for you, you can use this handy tip to make family memories you’ll never forget either. Note, if you get bored, change colors. Just think of what you could do on President’s Day even in a 1 1/2 bath home. Or maybe there’s a scrapbooking opportunity here. I haven’t thought it through.

Comment From The Editor:

Thank you for the very interesting idea for the single moms in our group when they need to give their teenage son a urine drug test. A.) Locate the main water valve and turn it off. B.) Place 3-4 drops of food coloring in each toilet bowl and toilet tank. C.) flush the toilet(s) in your house to empty the tank D.) Be prepared for an unhappy teenager who will cooperate only because you promise him the use of the shower. E) If you get a positive reading on the test; seek the help which your son needs. Sally

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Another Single Mom's Story
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, March 07, 2010

Emily has earned many off-campus visits with me, has had 2 successful day passes at home, and may have an overnight visit this weekend or next. She is up to level C now and doing fairly well in RTF. She still involves herself in others' business and is still overly concerned with the "fairness" of how she is treated compared to the other residents and often gets in trouble for voicing her feelings or acting out inappropriately in response.

She has been put on Lithium by the psychiatrist at the RTF, which I initially was originally very apprehensive about. I mean, that was a drug they used in Mental Hospitals! How could they put her on that? But, I have noticed a remarkable change in her since being on it, so who am I to interfere? I also hate the idea of "substituting" one drug for another which is how I view it, personally. However, I am not a doctor nor a Behavioral Health professional, nor an addiction professional, so I am letting them take charge here, and stepping out of their way, which can be difficult for me to do as a single mom who always calls the shots.

Emily is in school at the RTF and continues to struggle. But she is putting forth the effort towards her classes. She is still overly social with the boys and gets up and leaves class whenever she gets bored or overwhelmed, to pass notes to the boys or just to walk around the halls. They are working on ways to combat that. One way is to have her earn free-time on the school's computer where she can do her photography and other things except go on-line. Another thing we all agreed on was that if her behavior for the week was really bad, then I would cut my visit short that weekend. We did that 2 weeks ago and I only stayed for a couple hours. That seemed to hit home.

Emily has her Consent Decree hearing on May 3rd. That is when it expires. They are only good for a year. On May 11th, Emily will have been gone for a whole year. It is hard for me to comprehend that. A year! I still miss her. I do. And it has taken a long time, but the pain of not being with her has been replaced with a sense of relief that she is NOT home doing drugs, having boys over the house while I am at work, trashing the house, or breaking the law. I really didn't expect to feel this way. The first few months, I cried myself to sleep every night and wrote to her a couple times a week. There was such a hole in my heart. I was lonely for my daughter. I missed her smell, her pretty face, her singing in her room, us snuggling together, or watching movies on Friday nights. But I came to realize that those were the few good times we had, and the bad times were more prevalent. When your child is away, you tend to glorify the good times because you miss them, while forgetting the bad times. I have found it necessary to remind myself of the bad times, to keep myself in check, as well as to keep HER in check.

She still tries to play the victim. I do not accept that at ALL anymore. I did at the beginning because Emily was a victim of sexual abuse as a small child. But, I cannot keep doing that because it doesn't help her. It gives her an excuse to not succeed. I can't let her do that anymore. She will never make any real progress if she keeps believing she is a victim. Until she stops playing the victim and takes her recovery into her own hands, and allows the professionals to show her how, she won't get better or heal.

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A Quick Summary of March 6th, 2010 Eastern Division, PSST Meeting
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, March 07, 2010

How nice it was....We had a great turnout of parents and professionals in attendance. There was a whopping turnout of seventeen (17) parents. Some were familiar and others were brand new.

Val and Lloyd and Cathy were there as usual but we were also fortunate enough to have two professionals from C.I.S.P. in attendance. They were Marvin Randall and Ron Bell. Marvin heads up the Community Intensive Supervision Program which services the Wilkinsburg, McKeesport, Garfield, Homewood and the Hill District. It was good to see some new faces for even though all our stories are similar they are not the same and new wisdom is always conveyed.

I was introduced to a single mom who has some insight into "How to Drug Test Your Son" (It can prove embarassing to give a urine test to an adult son and she had a simple way to make sure the test speciman was his!) Look for her post which may be coming soon! Because of the full room we had time for only one role-play but we role-played it two ways. (One) With the teenager being in control and using the GIMME THREE STEP METHOD, NEVER THE LESS/REGARDLESS & I AM NOT COMFORTABLE WITH THAT methods (two) With the teenager being out of control and using the WE ARE GOING TO BE NICE ENOUGH TO LET YOU KNOW THAT WE ARE GOING TO HAND YOU OVER TO THE JUVENIAL COURT SYSTEM method. We had a newbee play the out of control teenager and he "brought down the house"! Bravo to him. In summation, my fellow-mom who sat next to me stated that "Our kids may always be manipulative" and yes, they probably will, therefore we must always and persistantly continue to keep the power in our homes. Thank you PSST for showing us the way to keep the power.

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You Gotta Break a Few Eggs...
Posted by:Rocco--Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Sometimes You Gotta Break a Few Eggs to Make an Omelet!

For new visitors let me explain that one year ago Sally and I were about to crack. We had an addict for a teenage son (we call Cisco). We had tried various forms of counseling, out-patient therapy and 12-Step Meetings for three years and it was not working. In fact Cisco was slipping deeper into the world of drugs and becoming more and more out of control. We were not only considering Act 53 (involuntary commitment of minors into drug and alcohol treatment) for him but we were seriously beginning to ask about how we could make Cisco a Ward of the State. We didn’t think we would ever get our lives or our home back in order and we were not sure how much longer Cisco would survive. He had already overdosed twice by age 16.

In our search we found PSST and have been regularly attending PSST meetings for ten months. They have guided us to professional resources for assistance for our son and for ourselves. We have also connected with a lot of other parents having very similar experiences with their teenagers. There are other very good Help Groups in the area (you can find links to some of them on the right side of the page) but we have found this group to be the one that suits us best.

Please consider attending a PSST Saturday morning meeting if for no other reason other than to VENT your feelings with others that understand what you are going through. You will be reassured, as we were, to see a number of parents nodding in agreement as you tell your story. Within a month or so of attending the PSST meetings we found an amazing thing – Sally and I regained our ability to laugh again. This was a big turning point that we weren’t sure we would ever reach. We, as well as our son, still have a way to go to on the road to healing (with some speed bumps, some usual and possibly unusual detours and plenty of potholes ahead) but we now have our GPS set for Recovery.

On the left side of this page you will find directions to the PSST Saturday morning meetings. On the right side of this page you will notice some links titled “Recommended Posts” and “Key Role-Plays”. A lot of these are based on discussions in the PSST meetings and address subjects and topics common to parents of addicts. They go back to 2001 and contain a lot of experience and wisdom.

One that I have keyed in on several times is “Breaking a Few Eggs” from March, 2007.

The post goes into how we as parents of addicts tend to “walk on eggshells” to keep peace and order in our lives. Our tiptoeing at least provides us “the perception” of peace and order in our lives. Just for the record, let me clarify that I was the one that thought that this was the better approach. Sally learned early on to be a little more direct and frank with Cisco and tended to “stomp on eggshells” to make sure she got her point across to him.

Cisco, like most addicts, needed to be the one in control. He would "play nice" with us as long as it got him what he wanted. But whenever challenged he would get loud, agressive and agitated. This had the effect that he wanted. We sympathized, reassured, apologized, commiserated, comforted and encouraged him just as all good parents do.

To put it into one simple phrase – We Enabled him.

To paraphrase the previous post: …all of our apologies, statements of love, and determination to “understand” were seen as a sign of weakness by our teenager. He played along of course. He understood this game well. The name of the game is “How Many Ways Can I Make This MOM and Dad’s FAULT?

In the last 10 months Cisco has been arrested, voluntarily entered inpatient treatment, violated probation, visited Shuman Center and juvenile court a few times, been on house arrest for a month, successfully completed an Intensive Outpatient Program, attended a lot of 12 Step Meetings, relapsed, gone into a second inpatient treatment facility and has matured quite a bit. He is scheduled to take his G.E.D. this month and is beginning to think about his future. The drug induced fog is starting to lift and Cisco is beginning to “get it.”

During this same time Sally and I, with the help of PSST, have been going through our own recovery process. The abuse and chaos of the last few years is settling we are regaining real peace and order in our lives. But NOT by “walking on eggshells” this time around. Sally and I now “get it” too.

Breaking eggs does not make us bad parents.

We now are dealing with Cisco being placed in a halfway house before returning home. We presented it to him and he didn’t like it. We felt bad but we got over it. Cisco did very well controlling his anger but still tried his best to “guilt us”. We felt bad again, but you know what? We got over it again.

To borrow from the post again: “…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 not fostered by the whole “tiptoe around the eggs thing.” Furthermore, our teenager is not the only one that needs to express a few feelings! As parents, we need to express some things too!”

We realize that if Cisco is going to believe that we have truly changed, then we better show him some of these changes while he is still in placement.

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.”

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Suggested Reading for Parents of Alcohol and Drug Users
Posted by:Sally--Monday, March 01, 2010

Hope These Books are Helpful to You.

1.How to Tell When Kids Are in Trouble with Alcohol/Drugs - Hazelden/Johnson Institute - ISBN # 1562461427
2.Parents, It's Not Your Fault - Beverly J. Skogland - ISBN # 0894865501
3.Acceptence-A Way to Serenity and Peaco of Mind - Vincent P. Collins -ISBN#087029072x

4.Recovery of Chemically Dependent Families - Hazelden/Johnson Institute - ISBN#0935908390
5.Detachment - The Art of Letting Go While Lilving With an Alcoholic - Evelyn Leite - ISBN# 0935908021
6.Chemical Dependence and Recovery, A Family Affair - Hazelden/Johnson Institute - ISBN# 0935908005
7.The Dynamics of Addiction - George A. Monn MD - ISBN # 0935908382
8.The Family Enablers - Hazelden/Johnson Institute - ISBN # 0935908099
9.Choices and Consequences, What To Do When a Teenager Uses Alcohol/Drugs - Dick Shaefer ISBN # 0935908420
10.Addictive Thinking - Abraham J. Twerski MD - ISBN # 1568381387
11.Codependent No More - Melody Beattie - ISBN # 0894864025
12.Beyond Codependency - Melody Beattie - ISBN # 0894865838
13.Alcoholics Anonomous -Big Book - Alcoholics Anonomous World Services, Inc.
14.Adult Children of Alcoholics - Janet Woititz - ISBN # 1558741127
15.It Will Never Happen to Me - Claudia Black Ph.D./MSW - ISBN # 1568387989
16.Under the Influence - Ketchum - ISBN # 9780553274875
17.Beyond the Infuence - Ketchum - ISBN # 0553380141
18.Boundaries, When to Say Yes, When to Say No, To Take Control of Your Life - Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend ISBN # 0310247454
19.The Selfish Brain - Dupont - ISBN # 1568383630

(Please Click on Above Title to link to another post about reading material.)

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