Quote of the Week

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

My name is Ed- Part II: The Plan
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, April 26, 2010



(Note-you can find part-one of Ed's post here.)

Have you ever been so angry, confused, frustrated and afraid as a result of the chaos in your life and that of your family caused by the actions of someone close to you who is suffering and struggling with the disease of addiction that you just did not know where to turn or how to react? I know that I have, more than once, numerous times. And most likely, you have, or you probably would not be reading this blog.

Surely, all of us who do experience or have experienced these feeling understand, at some level, that they are valid, and that we did not cause the situations that bring them into our lives. Thus, much of our anger becomes directed at the perpetrator, as we see them, our addicted loved one

What is wrong with this picture, or is there anything wrong other than the addiction, which in itself, presents everyone involved with plenty of wrong to go around?

I nearly gave up. Everything was terrible. You may know the feeling. I finally had to ask myself, “What do I owe this person—my son?” It was a question that had to be answered in my heart and in my head, or giving up and becoming an on-going, hopeless victim was inevitable.

I was in a struggle for reason and, in a real sense, sanity as I had previously known it. It haunted me for days, weeks, perhaps months. I was actually considering disowning my addicted son who, himself, I knew was suffering deeply. What kind of a father would ever do that? It was something that I knew needed a lot of hard work on my part. So, I sucked it up, and did the work. Here is how that went.

I committed a specific amount of time each day to consideration of and making notations about my thoughts and feeling on the matter, attempting to view, objectively, the past and current events around it. Twenty minutes a day, alone in a quiet place, contemplating past and current events and the future.

Outside of that committed time, I made every effort possible to focus on my life, my business, and others around me without the interruptions caused by the problems of my son’s addiction―not an easy task, as you can imagine, when a substantial portion world around you, at times, seems to be going mad.

But, as in a world heavily influenced by addiction nothing is easy or simple, we can improve as we go, and we can control our own attitude one day at a time, one hour at a time, one minute at a time, moment-to-moment.

But, how—how can we do that? The answer for me came through what I would call simplification. We have all heard it. In the programs it is often referred to as the “KISS” principle, “Keep It Simple Stupid!”.

Well, keeping it simple for me proved to be not so stupid after all. In fact, it became the basis of an even more powerful mantra, at least for me. It is mantra that I carry with me now constantly, a mantra that has proved its value to me over a number of years—Love, Accountability, Example. This is what I discovered that I owed my addicted adolescent, and still owe to my addicted adult son.

Love, unconditional love, is the first thing that I discovered through my contemplations that I owed to my addicted son. I am responsible for his conception and birth, how can I not be responsible for loving him? And, actually loving my son enough to watch or, at times, even cause him suffering in order to facilitate positive change in his life—well, that, to me, seems to be a higher standard of love.

Accountability is the second thing that became obvious to me that I owed my addicted son. Everyone wants their children to become productive, responsible, happy adults. In order for that to happen, we must hold them accountable for their actions, and love them enough to initiate the appropriate consequences when necessary.

And, Example, an excellent example, is the third thing that I concluded that I owed my addicted son. Our children learn by observing us. We must set an excellent example, if we expect them to succeed. In order to nurture people of integrity, we must be people of integrity.

Are there other things that we owe the addicts in our lives? Well, possibly. But, I have found, over the years, that virtually all of the other things that I have been able to think of or have run across, can be, somehow, relegated into those three categories.

Our addiction incessantly attempts to complicate our lives, often by convincing us, in our addicted state of confusion, that all of the minutia is of the utmost importance. So, now you have the plan to beat it—simplification.

Your plan may or may not be or even include Love, Accountability and Example. But, that is what has worked for me in restoring day-to-day sanity to my life, and helping to produce positive results in the life of my chemically addicted son, who, after 20 years of active use, is now approaching one year clean and sober.

Whatever you may find that works for you, simplification, as opposed to complication, seems a good and logical place to start your search.

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Push Mom's Buttons - She is The New Video Game
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, April 25, 2010

There is a new video game in town -
her name is Lori.

My name is Lori, and I am the mom of a teenage drug addict. He is a typical teenager from middle class America, but made the mistake of experimenting with drugs. His name is Zachariah and his drug use developed into a problem. As all drug addicts do, he became a master at manipulation. As his problem grew his need to control me became increasingly crucial and he became a skilled technician at pushing my buttons.

All parents know that their kids can push their buttons. From birth, kids instinctively know how to manipulate us to satisfy their needs. And by the time they are teenagers, most have developed this button-pushing into an art form. How extra creative they become at pushing these buttons when they start using drugs.

Once our teenagers have a need for drugs, they continue to push our buttons in anticipation that we will continue to satisfy them. Now it is no longer to satisfy their needs as a healthy growing child, but to destroy the person they are to become. For it is the drugs that they now crave, and they will eliminate anyone and anything in their path. And the more we try to stand in their way, the more buttons they create. And the more we interfere with their access to the drugs, the more creative our teenager becomes in pushing our buttons.

Once drugs are involved, this art form of button-pushing is now elevated to new levels. Not only have they created several new buttons, they know what button to push, when they need a given reaction. New buttons are constantly being created. Old buttons are being used over and over again. Buttons being pushed for every situation where they need to control us. They need to convince us that we must accommodate them regardless of the sick feeling in our gut, they want us to think that it is not as bad as it seems and that they really do not need to do those things the counselors, teachers, police are saying, that nobody else understands them, that they are being accused of things that are not true, that they try so hard and no one gives them credit for anything, that they don't deserve what is happening to them, that they thought they could count on us and now we are betraying them as everyone else is, that we are pushing them away and they can no longer trust us, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

Zach had one sad story after the next. He certainly had an impressive collection of sad-story buttons. All of these buttons have the same message, "I want more drugs". All have the same desired outcome, "Get out of my way, because I am going to get these drugs". Have no doubt, this is their ambition; their only ambition. The rest of all their words, well, they are all just smoke and mirrors. Furthermore, the closer you get to the addiction and the more often you interfere with their access to the drugs; the more pathetic their stories become. They will be told with increased anger and viciousness. So be prepared for an onslaught of their fury, displayed at a level that you have never seen before. Be prepared to have your buttons pushed in a manner that will force you into unbearable situations.

I do not even want to remember all the things Zach said to me or all the things that Zach has done. But I can't forget them either, even years later. However I do hold these words, and all of the other stuff that came with it, in a place that is different and separate from my son. In a place I call "Zach's Addiction" for it is the addiction that drives their behavior.

If you ever wonder, "Why is he doing these things? What on earth is he thinking? " Just ask yourself another question, "Does it get him one step closer to his stuff?" And the answer will always be, "Yes! " They say and do these things, because they crave the drug. That is their only objective. It is nothing personal. And it sure isn't complicated. They want the drugs and you are standing in their way. It is that simple.

But, do not confuse the addiction with your child. And do not lose this focus on what is really happening. While they are still using, regardless of how often, all you see is the addiction. Their words, their actions are driven by the addiction, while your kid is entombed deep inside. The addiction controls everything they do, everything they say; while your child stays buried and crying out for help. And their behavior becomes more and more brazen, blatant, shameless and bizarre, to force their cry's to become louder and louder.

Believe me. When you are saying, "My God! How can he do these things?" Your kid is saying, "My God! Why can't she hear me!"

Regardless of how painful it is to watch this drug addiction consume your child. Regardless of how much more painful it is to do whatever is necessary to take the drugs away from your child. Never forget that it is you that they are depending on to stop them. It is you they expect to help them. To really help them! You need to stop their consumption of the drugs. This is what they really want you to do. This is what they really need you to do. Regardless of what the addiction is saying or doing.

And never forget that your kid is in there somewhere. He may have morphed into something you cannot recognize, but he is still in there. Never give up hope on that! Accept what must be done. You must stop the access to the drugs, and do it anyway you can. Do not listen to your teenager during this process, because it is the addiction that is talking. But hang onto the reality that your kid wants out of their Addiction Prison, and when he is strong enough to finally accept Drug Recovery, your kid will resurface, greet you, and Thank You!

But in the meantime, they continue to push our buttons as their addiction is playing us. This button pushing does work so very effectively, as we step aside in ignorance and unknowingly give them access to their drugs. It works so effectively because we are so predictable. We are so consistent in how we react, that our buttons can be labeled. And your kid and mine have these labels memorized.

One of the first buttons they need is an off button. When all else fails, when we will not step aside, they bring out the nuclear option, because they need something to just shut us down. Every drug using teenager has one, and Zach certainly knew my off button. If I was able to eliminate his access to the drugs long enough, he became desperate enough to threaten to leave.

“Be careful Mom .... The next thing you say to me, may be your last.” or “Be careful what you say Mom. I know people in upstate New York and I can be gone in a heartbeat. You will never see me again. You will never see me again.” And these words terrified me. They fed into my greatest fear, that I would lose him to the underground world of drug use. I believed that I would never see him again.

Without question, Zach had a button for whatever he needed me to do. If he needed me to raise my left leg, he had a button. If he needed to me raise my right arm, he had a button. If he needed me to take two steps backwards, he had a button. If he needed to me give him money, he had a button. And if he wanted me to shut-up and get out of his way, he had a button for that too.

If your teenager is using drugs, there is no doubt that there is a new video game in town and this video game is you! The only keeper of the game controller is your teenager. In all your dealings with your teenager, just picture him with the game controller and you can see him push those buttons as you can see yourself behave in that given, consistent manner.

Our consistent behavior does make us predictable but we back into this behavior for many reasons. One is, we are reliable. And they play on that. Another is, that we are responsible. And they play on that too. But even more so, we are not outrageous. We want to exhibit adult behavior, mature behavior and they play on that as well. We love them and we are afraid to lose them and they really play on that one.

We are so predictable and the addiction feeds from it. Our teenagers are comfortable with their abilities to get access to the drugs, because they can rely on our predicable behavior, just like a video game. What button to push when? Have no doubt, they know the exact button to push, when they need a given reaction from you.

One night, I inadvertently short circuited the video game. It still took me years to realize that I had done so and to understand why.

My husband and I worked very hard at getting our son into treatment and we did get him into several different types of facilities and programs. Unfortunately, his drug use still continued, and this continued for years. We had become exhausted from the stress, from the fear of losing him to the drug underworld or worse. We were terrified that he would die, before we could get him effective treatment.

Yet everything we did just didn't work. Zach needed long term treatment. I began calling several such facilities, however, I learned that the only way to get them into these facilities was with a court order. So the only solution was getting him arrested.

We did that. Zach was arrested and was immediately placed into Shuman juvenile detention facility. And what a relief! For the first time in years, I was sleeping at night, because I knew he was safe. The years of despair and fear were slowly dissipating, but never completely. However, enough to allow me to relax, just a little.

We didn't yet know where he was going or for how long, but I knew that somehow he would be placed in a 9 to 12 month treatment facility. This isn't common upon the first arrest, but I had been working with court appointed counselors (PA Act 53 counselors), and they knew Zach's history. We had already done all the treatment options that precede long term placement, and that would be communicated to the judge before Zach's hearing. Plus our counselors knew which judge to select. We had to wait for an opening in her courtroom, but she was worth the wait.

So, I not only knew that Zach was safe for the several nights in Shuman, I knew he was going directly to a long term facility as soon as a bed was open. Zach wasn't going anywhere for several months. Zach was going to be playing by my rules for awhile.

Zach had been in Shuman for a couple of days, when we were driving to see him. I had been out of town on business, so this trip would be the first time for me to visit. I was so excited to be able to see him, but a strange thing happened along the way.

We were relaxed, for we knew he was safe. And my husband and I were quietly enjoying the calm of the car ride to Shuman. But then in this stillness, all the memories of the past few years began tossing around in my mind and I was becoming very angry. There was nothing to temper my anger as before, because there was no fear of him using. There was no fear of the off button. He wasn't going anywhere. He was locked up and I was thrilled! The off-button was now disabled!

By the time we reached Shuman, my anger was almost uncontrolable.

We proceeded into the visiting room with all the other visitors and we spotted Zach. As soon as we sat down, my anger started. I was loud, belligerent and I proceeded to tell him that this would be the end of his drug use, that it will no longer be tolerated, that he will no longer bring this lifestyle into our home, into our family, etc, etc, etc. The longer my rant continued the worse it got, and the more desperate Zach was becoming. He was pushing every button he had, but this time it wasn't working.

As we continued to sit there, my anger grew and I was starting to cause a scene. I was becoming loud enough, that people started to stare. My husband was getting upset with me, because in general, he doesn't do well in situations when I am humiliating myself and I certainly was. I didn't care about him or me. I didn't care about anything. I was just so angry.

Zach was becoming more and more frustrated that his buttons were no longer working. He finally pushed The Off Button. "I'll leave, etc., etc. I will not come home, etc., etc. You will never see me again." And then I lost it. Really lost it. I stood up and leaned across the table until we were just about nose to nose, and then shouted for the entire room to hear, "This planet is not big enough for you to hide from me. I will hire whoever and get whatever I need to track you down. And make no mistake, I will track you down like a dog. You will not continue this gutter lifestyle. I will see you behind bars first. So don't threaten me again."

At this point, everyone was looking at me. Zach was humiliated, my husband was angry with me, and I still didn't care. I was so angry I was shaking, and I was losing control. I thought it best for me to leave before I flew over the table at him. So I made my exit. My husband stayed with Zach for the remainder of the visit, while I sat outside talking with the guard. And even though I just experienced the most severe temper outburst of my life, even though I should be humiliated along with my husband, I felt strangely peaceful. I am still not sure why, but I was grateful for that feeling, no matter how short-lived it was. And I had a great time chatting with the guard. I was actually enjoying myself. Zach was still locked up. And I was still thrilled!

Regardless of how dramatic this moment was, it is humorous looking back at it today. And I often have looked back at that moment in Shuman. Mainly because in the years following, there have been several times that my son reiterated my words of that day. This may not have been my proudest moment, but it was a moment he remembered. It made enough of an impact that he remembered what I said. In fact, I think it is still making an impact today, several years later. He heard me. And he knew I meant it. I was too crazy not to be noticed. I was too boisterous not to be heard.

But even more important was the impact on me, The Video Game. I can still see Zach that evening as we were having that exchange, but now I notice how desperate he was becoming to get me back under control. I can almost imagine him holding the game controller in his hand, frantically pushing one button after the next but not getting the expected result. For the first time, I was unpredictable. The longer I remained unpredictable, the more desperate Zach became and the more frantically he pushed those buttons.

I may have lost it, like a responsible in-control adult should not. I may have even laced my words with a few expletives (actually several), as a respectful adult should not. I may have humiliated my son as a loving parent should not but I inadvertently re-wired the game controller that night. Because from that moment forward, I had created a new button of my own. The Crazy Woman Button. And this button was more dynamic than any other button because it had the power to convert any existing button into The Crazy Woman button and Zach would never know which one or when. I was the one in control of The Crazy Woman Button and that finally gave me some control over the game. I was no longer predicable and I could throw him off balance. I had interfered with the ability of his addiction to consistently feed from me, because Zach and the addiction were never really sure of what I would do.

This night started the next chapter in my relationship with my son. From that day forward, Zach was more cautious when pushing my buttons. As if he would hold the game controller in his hand, push a button, then immediately step back and look at me, wondering ... Was that the Crazy Woman button? Granted he still continued to push my buttons, but not with the confidence that he once had. And he may still be the one holding that game controller but he didn't push those buttons with the reckless abandon that he used to. He never knew when the crazy woman was going to appear in the video game. I had thrown him off balance, and that was good. The addiction couldn't depend on me to consistently perform and that was even better. I intend to keep it that way.

So from that night forward, I was no longer the Queen of Enabling. However, I was still it's princess, and I still needed a lot of work. For it took me many more "Come to Jesus" moments for me to truly understand the severe extent that I had to push my interaction with Zach to force him to face his addiction and to stop me from protecting him from it. Zach needed to enter and proceed through Drug Recovery alone, leaving the teenager and teenager's Mom behind. And I struggled to accept this as the only way. There were still many dark, difficult times to come and I still had a lot to learn.

It did take a long time for me to destroy The Video Game, and it took even longer for the addiction to become convinced that I was no longer in the game.

But it was that moment, where I displayed my temper in front of an audience at Shuman, when I humiliated myself, my husband, and Zach; When I threw him off balance, when I stopped being so predictable, and most importantly, when I began to confront his addiction. It was here when I started to gain control again. Temper tantrum and all.

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Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, April 18, 2010

[Ed has volunteered for a local agency for 20 plus years. He shows up on Family Night to help teenagers and their families figure things out. Ed is a natural teacher and I have learned a lot from him. He will tell you that his disease is Co-dependency and the reason that he shows up every week is because that's what he needs to do to fight his disease. His weekly volunteer work is his "meeting." Here is part 1 of Ed's story.]

Hello! My name is Ed, and I am an addict.

You see, my disease of addiction is not what most people would normally think of when they think of addiction. My addiction is the disease of Co-dependency.

Oh, I know, you say, “That is different—not an addiction at all.” Well, bear with me for a few minutes, and let’s see if I can change your mind, or perhaps, my mind will be changed. Let’s just briefly explore it together.

I have two sons, ages 40 and 35. The younger of the two is a long-time confessed and proven addict since early in his teenage years—addicted to alcohol and drugs, and, as with all addicts, Cross-Addicted to all mind and mood altering substances.

Of course, as any parent, I love both of my sons deeply and equally, and would never purposely do anything to harm either of them or to jeopardize their long-term happiness. However, I have done those very things over and over again, especially with regard to the younger. How so? Let’s see.

My disease, Co-dependency, manifests itself in a number of ways, nearly all of which can be termed as Enabling Behavior. That is, from time to time, I do things, especially with regard to my younger son, the addict, that jeopardize his long-term happiness and well-being, things like giving him “a little cash” or a ride somewhere he needs to go. You see, he doesn’t have a vehicle, and probably has not legally earned enough in his lifetime to purchase one, much less insure and maintain it.

So, I just help him out a little, from time to time. What’s wrong with that? After all, he is my son. Wouldn’t I do the same for my eldest son? And, indeed, I do.

In addition, as any parent, I still occasionally overlook little faults in the behavior of my sons. What’s the harm? Everyone makes a mistake from time to time. Although, it does seem that the younger makes those little mistakes more often than the older. And, I guess that maybe his mistakes do tend to be of a more outstanding nature. After all, he is five years younger than his brother. Don’t all of our mistakes seem to become less frequent and less severe as we age? I know mine have.

In reality, the last few paragraphs above classically illustrate active and passive enabling, either or both in combination of which have the potential to send the addict that you love to an early death. I still at times make the mistake of doing one or the other. And afterward, I always feel remorseful. Then why do I do it?

The root of the answer lies far back in the past. Indeed, it probably begins in all of us the moment a baby is born, possibly before their birth or even their conception. There is that overwhelming desire within all of us to make our child’s life better than ours was—to spare them the suffering that we endured—to give them more than we had.

And so, we begin to instill in ourselves that enabling behavior right from the beginning. And, the babies? They love it! They get used to it! And, within a very short time, they demand it.

Ever not picked up a crying baby, after having done so on every crying occasion for a period of time? There is hell to pay! And to force yourself not to respond as you know they expect is gut-wrenching. So, we end up picking them up, even when we realize that it will further spoil them, and the beat goes on.

Fast forward thirteen or fourteen years—bingo, adolescence! The problem has magnified both in expectation and complexity. We are now full blown, well trained enablers; and our children have now begun to experiment with and/or abuse controlled substances; that, mixed with their hormonal mish-mash, presents some daunting problems for both the teen and the Enabling Parent.

I will not attempt to explain here the process of how to curtail our destructive enabling parental behaviors. Just know that it requires discipline and conscious effort on a day-to-day, sometimes moment-to-moment basis.

And, the disease, the addiction to Co-dependency and the subsequent enabling behaviors that naturally follow, is always there, looking for and waiting for a moment of weakness.

I am not cured. I know that I will never be cured if this addiction. However, thankfully, I am in recovery. I do relapse from time-to-time. But, the relapses now are much shorter and much less severe than they used to be. You see, I have a program, a plan if you will—the salvation of any addicted person.

Check in here next week to hear about that.

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Summary of 4-17-10 Mt Lebanon meeting.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, April 17, 2010

We had nine parents attend. One parent was new to PSST and several others were attending the Mt. Lebanon meeting for the first time. Kathie, Val and Lloyd also present. Guest speaker, Jim Musiol of 1 Step Detect Associates (DTx) was with us. He patiently answered all our questions about drug testing and what our teens do to disguise their results and show negative readings on drug tests. He had great answers, good information, and free drug testing samples. He also brought enough pastries to feed all of us with plenty left over. Thanks Jim for your time and for all that you shared with us today.

Afterwards, we had time for a quick round-the-table introductions from each parent and then some final wrap-up comments. We will address role-plays next time. Please let us know which scenarios would be helpful.

We missed both Sally and Rocco. We wish them well and look forward to having them back with us next meeting. We will start off the month of May by having our PSST at Eastern Dist Probation Office on the 1st. Please refer to calandar on right side of blog and locations connecting to Google Maps on the left margin. Happy parenting till we meet again.

We addressed themes such as calling your teens friend's parents to check in and share notes, getting a probation officer to help you with your teen's defiance, staying clam in the face of a tantrum.

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The Adolescent Brain
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Friday, April 16, 2010

I was at an training for a day and a half where the Adolescent Brain under the effects of drug abuse was examined. The trainer, Michael Nerney, really knew this subject backwards and forwards. He was also really funny and I think the humor got some good brain chemistry going for the training participants, making learning more likely. It reminded me of the funny things that come up at PSST. We know the subject isn't funny, but gee, sometimes you just have to have to have a bit of a laugh.

I would like to share a couple of things we covered. One, Adolescent Brains are under such rapid growth that indeed they are in many ways not like adult brains. Once we understand this, we can understand some of these mysterious behaviors such as risk-taking. Teen brains are "wired" for risk taking; therefore, if they don't have opportunities for legitimate risk-taking opportunities, they are more drawn to illegal risk taking. Also, their developing brains are not as able to assess the danger associated with the risks. That will come later, once they have an adult brain. Therefore, it is important that adults help teenagers enter into legitimate risk taking, such as sports or other competitions.

Two, we are right to try to buy as much clean-time for our teenagers via our various PSST strategies because the earlier and the deeper that our teens travel into drug abuse the more likely that they will have substance abuse and other problems for the rest of their lives. Yes, the good news is that brains can often heal after damage- but the bad news is that it takes quite a while for brains to heal and the damage can be very serious. Further, teens remain at a high risk for relapse while their brains are healing and that healing could take years. For example, "The hippocampus encodes new information into memory. Adolescents with a history of alcohol use disorder have a smaller hippocampus volume (on average, by about 10 percent.)"

This FRONTLINE video covers some of what we learned although it is not a video that was featured at our training. Note that it has Chapter links and you are free to skip ahead.

As I mentioned, the training in which I participated was excellent.

"The Adolescent Brain and Chemical Dependency
Recent research indicates that the time frame from 14 year to 24 years of age is
exceptionally risky. New insights into brain development, gained through the use
of new technology, demonstrate specific conditions that exist in the brain only
during adolescence. Linking this research to the stages of adolescent development
has generated better understanding of the way in which adolescents perceive the
world, themselves, and their behaviors.

The Center is pleased to announce that Michael Nerney, Executive Director of
Michael Nerney and Associates, will return to facilitate this workshop that he
last presented at a Center sponsored event in the spring of 2005 where he earned
a 6.4 evaluation score on our 7-point scale. Michael Nerney is a consultant in
Substance Abuse Prevention and Education, with over thirty years’ experience in
the field. He is an internationally known lecturer, and has served as consultant to
a number of federal and state agencies, including the federal Office of Substance
Abuse Prevention and the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the New York State
Education Department, Department of Social Services, Division for Youth,
Department of Correctional Services, Division of Probation and Correctional
Alternatives, Division of Parole, Division of Criminal Justice Services, Capital
Defender’s Office and Governor’s Office of Employee Relations. Mr. Nerney has
provided consultation on drug courts and other areas of technical assistance to
correctional systems across the country, including the states of California, Texas,
Alabama, Delaware, New Mexico, Connecticut, North Carolina, and Oregon. He
has been a consultant for two of the major television networks and has appeared
on the ABC program 20/20. He is the father of four children."

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A Mom's Insight into Missing Memories - Part 4 - The Road to Recovery Can Be Brutal
Posted by:Rocco--Friday, April 16, 2010


Following is the next part of a mom’s missing memories. Lori shared her story this in 2008. It touches all families with teenage addicts.

Losing a Teenager and Gaining an Adult - by Lori

"...There have been many times when I did not understand the actions of my son’s counselors when he was in placement. I felt the need to intervene. Surely these people don't know what they are doing! However, I always stopped myself and asked the question, “Whatever I did, did it ever work?” Regardless of how much I want to believe that I really did know what was best for my son, the answer to this question was always a resonating, “No!”

Since he started his drug use at the age of 13 until he was forced into placement by the courts at 17; what I was doing WAS NOT working. In fact, it helped the addiction process to continue...”

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 4 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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Posted by:Rocco--Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Because I'm a man, when the car isn't running very well, I will open the hood and stare at the engine as if I know what I'm looking at. I will jiggle some wires, check the fluids, tighten some screws and possibly replace a filter but…

“Because I am a man I will not admit that I can't fix it!”

Because I am a man, when I purchase an appliance, piece of furniture or some other gadget I will not pay one dime more for it to be assembled. I will take it home and scatter the pieces, force and bend the parts, enlarge the holes, question the intelligence of the designer, cuss at the infernal thing but…
“Because I am a man I will not read the instructions!”

Because I'm a man, when one of our appliances stops working, I will insist on taking it apart, despite evidence that this will just cost me twice as much once the repair person gets here and has to put it back together but…
“Because I am a man asking for assistance is out of the question!”

Because I'm a man, when I lock my keys in the car, I will fiddle with a coat hanger long after either hypothermia or heat stroke has set in but…
“Because I am a man calling the AAA for help is not an option!”

About a year ago I, a man, had to admit that we were totally lost. We were in need, big time, for some directions on how to plot a new course for this whole teenage recovery thing. We've been regularly attending the PSST meetings since then. We've acquired some new skills, taken back control of our lives and we have our son on his way to recovery.

We have been able to accomplish this on account of the support and encouragement of a lot of caring concerned professionals and fellow parents.

One thing that we have noticed is that the parent that is usually attending the meeting is the Mom, and that is okay. Nevertheless if we could get both Mom and Dad involved with the meetings a lot more perspective could be added to the group. This would be the case for Single Dads also.

In addition to the case of Single Moms we know that there are other reasons for the Dads not making it in; work, appointments, younger sisters and brothers to care for and, as in our very own experience, not wanting to leave our son and our home unprotected.

Hopefully this shortage of Dads is not a stubborn thing, a “lack of trust” thing, a pride thing, a childish thing or a macho thing.

If you can make it, 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.

So let's go guys! C'mon in and join us.

If you're struggling with teenage drug abuse and you want some advice on a new approach, we can help you "find a new way to get there."

Our meetings are open to all parents, including Dads, who are serious about making a difference in their children’s life. There is no charge or commitment.

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

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April 10 PSST Meeting in Wexford
Posted by:Rocco--Sunday, April 11, 2010

It was a beautiful spring day at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Wexford Saturday. Outside there was a lot of work going on restoring and fixing up the landscaping from a rough winter. Inside there was a lot of work going on at the PSST meeting restoring and healing parents from the distress and difficulties caused by addiction.

We all would like to sincerely thank Trinity Lutheran Church for the use of their first class facilities to allow PSST to empower parents of out-of-control teenagers. This is a great example of how they have been reaching out and serving Wexford and the northern suburbs since 1845.

Val, Kathy and Lloyd were there as well as 6 parents. We were glad to have one supportive alumna checking in, a clued-in parent returning for a second round and a concerned first time parent. I remember being a bit overwhelmed at our first visit but I am very thankful that we came back.

We did some role plays:

- A teen wanting his parents to commit to a promise that he would be out of his program in no more than 90 days.

- A mom setting up a plan with her and the P.O. to reel in her out of control teen.

- A mom explaining her plan (accompanied by the P.O.) to her out of control teen.

We talked over not being distressed when we need to be the “Bad Guy” AGAIN. In fact, we want to be the “Bad Guy” because it gives us, the parent, the power. Or to provide a better connotation we like to say that it lets your teen know that there is a “New Sheriff in Town” and lets them know that we are taking back the control.

We went over the cell phone thing.

- “I want to know where my child is” VS “They lie. You don’t really know anyway.”

- “I check their call history and text messages” VS “They know. They erase what they don’t want you to see.”

- “They will need to reach me in an emergency!” VS “They know how to reach you anytime they 'need' anything. All of the kids they are with have phones.”

We noted that the phones are not cheap, that taking the phone away is a good consequence and that the phone essentially becomes just another piece of drug paraphernalia. To act quickly and save money you can call the phone service provider and have their service suspended.

Remember you as parents have the right to confiscate stuff from your minor child. When you take things away from your teen (i.e. cell phones, X-Box, computers, drug paraphernalia and drugs) lock it up. Better yet take it out of the house all together – to someone’s house that you can trust or, if necessary, to the police. I had a special file drawer in my office for my son’s “stuff” (I bagged and tagged it and alerted my Admin Assistant in case someone else found it).

DO NOT destroy or dispose of your teen’s drugs or drug paraphernalia. You are not PROTECTING them, you are ENABLING them.

Val and Lloyd explained that you can have charges on file without immediately setting a hearing date with this evidence. You can then use these charges and the possible hearing as a major consequence for your teen if they refuse treatment.

PLEASE NOTE: They also clarified for us parents with a child that is about to turn 18 that these charges will remain Juvenile Charges for 6 months.

Then, as strange as it sounds at first, we were coached as parents to AGREE WITH YOUR TEEN. Find some little thing in your discussion to agree with them. This will totally throw them off track and allow you to take back control of the conversation.

Teen: “This program is totally bullsh-t, you and that P.O. just want to keep me locked away!”

Mom (leaning forward for emphasis): “You’re right honey (Pause for the 'Huh?' effect). Nevertheless I will keep you locked away as long as it takes to make sure that you are safe and stay clean.”

Remember our two favorite words NEVERTHELESS and REGARDLESS. Try to get BUT totally out of your vocabulary. Or as one of my favorite people loves to always remind me “Everything you say after the word BUT is BS.”

Once again, I think we all would like to sincerely thank Trinity Lutheran Church for the use of their first class facilities to allow PSST to empower parents of out-of-control teenagers. This is a great example of how they have been reaching out and serving Wexford and the northern suburbs since 1845.

We look forward to seeing a lot of you at our meeting next Saturday, April 17 at the PSST meeting at the Outreach Teen and Family Services located in Mt. Lebanon at 666 Washington Road (free parking in the back lot).

Guest speaker Jim Musiol of 1 Step Detect Associates (DTx) will explain drug testing, what our teens use to disguise results and get negative readings on their drug test and parental awareness of 4-20 Day. You may purchase drug tests from Jim. These are accurate drug tests used by many agencies.
Parents that attend PSST meetings receive a very reasonable price of:
$1.00 per drug test and $3.00 per 3-stick drug test – Alcohol Test will also be available.

Remember there is still Hope at PSST.

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Are we as oppositional as our teenagers seem to be?
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sometimes I think we adults are pretty oppositional. We can't seem to allow that our teenagers might be right about anything, at least not at the point where we are feeling defensive. However, one of the keys to setting up a good working relationship with your teenager is to agree with him often. Even when you really don't agree with the meat of what he is saying, you can always agree with the potatoes or the greens.

Why is it important to agree with each other? Agreements are the thread that ties us together. It is not our disagreements that bond, it is our agreements. Without that bonding, the disagreements could tear us apart.

In addition, your teen expects an argument. When he finds instead that you agree with something, with anything that he says, he is disarmed. Think of it as priming the pump, setting the table, or oiling the squeeky door. Think of it anyway that you like, but think of it often and use it!

Another way to look at it: Is the glass half full or glass half empty? We disagree with something that our teenager said, e.g., "I don't think I can make it back by curfew tonight Mom!" Immediately, we disagree and we want to argue that "you better get back by curfew tonight or else you're not going and if you go and don't get back in time, then you're grounded buddy!"

Ironically, we might have also been concerned that he would not have made it back on time. If he has had trouble making it back on time recently, then that alone could have made it easy to agree that this might be a problem; however, we choose to argue. If that is the half empty glass where is the half full one?

Son: I don't think I can make it back by curfew tonight Mom.

Mom: I was thinking the same thing. [this is "joining phrase" that implies agreement. We are agreeing that we are thinking the same thing.]

Son: You were?

Mom: Well, you have trouble with the curfew recently, you don't agree with the curfew, and tonight your plans sound a bit complicated.

Son: Yeah, and you know, I don't feel like getting grounded when it's not really my fault- and I'm being honest about it, you know?

Mom: I just think it's good that you are thinking ahead.

Son: Right. You aren't going to give me a later curfew even though I'm being honest. You just don't care. You got that brainwashing thing going on where you went to a few classes and now you think you know everything. What I think doesn't matter to you anymore.

Mom: I'm glad you brought this up. [A standard good thing to say- we can always agree that it was a good thing to bring up.]

Mom: But I agree with you that I'm not going to give you a later curfew. I mean, you know me very well, and I guess you can predict pretty easy what I am and what I'm not going to do. You're smart like that or else I'm just easy to figure out.

Son: What are you talking about I agree with you? We don't agree on this at all!

Mom: That's true- we disagree about the curfew. But we agree that with what all your trying to do tonight you won't make it back on time.

Son: Right.

Mom: Yes, I think that shows maturity on your part, you know, to even bring it up.

Son: So, you don't care if I stay out later?

Mom: Oh yes, I care- I'm just still glad that you brought it up.

Son: Can I stay out later?

Mom: No.

Son: Why not? Just give me one good reason?

Mom: You don't think there is one good reason for me not to let you stay out later.

Son: No I don't [glaring.]

Mom: I admit I don't have one good reason that will convince you.

Son: SEE!

Mom: Nevertheless, I am really not comfortable with you going out at all tonight- I agree with you- you won't make it back in on time- just stay home.

Son: I thought you said it was good to bring it up!

Mom: It was.

Son: But I got screwed.

Mom: In a way, yes, you did.

Son [glares ]

Son: OK, I'll make it back tonight on time.

Mom: That would please me but how can you be so sure?

Son: I'm not going to go with Todd. I'm going to go with Gina. She has to be back the same time I do so if I go with her I know I'll make it.

Read more about this parenting technique in an earlier post from November of last year: "I Agree"

Also, we have posted about the power of agreeing, twisting the agreement, and falling back on "nevertheless" and "regardless" in this post: "Gimme three steps, won't you gimme three steps, gimme three steps towards the door..."

Note: Some of our teens are Oppositional Defiant perhaps.

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A Mom's Insight into Missing Memories - Part 3 - I can't remember much...
Posted by:Rocco--Thursday, April 08, 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

"He had to let go of his teen years. His drug addiction didn’t allow him to be a teenager and he had to accept that he could not recapture those teen years. They were gone forever...

...I once asked my son about the years he spent doing drugs and if he considered writing down some of his memories so that others could understand. He said that he couldn’t, because he can’t remember much. And after a few days of thinking about this comment, I began to realize how sad this statement is, so very sad. His teen years, that should have been some of the best of his life, can be capsulated in the simple statement, “I can’t remember much.” …"

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 3 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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Max and Mels Terrible Adventure - The Prodigal Son Returns Home
Posted by:Sally--Tuesday, April 06, 2010

As everyone told us he would, our son David returned home on Sunday night, after being gone for a total of 10 days. We were relieved but very cautious - Mel and I had made sure we were mentally prepared.

All week long we discussed what would be the best thing to say, or not say, when he finally walked in. We agreed that on the first evening at least, we would remain calm, would not get into any deep discussion, and make sure we told him we loved him. We were going to do this no matter what mood brought him in the door.

When he walked in, he strode by me quickly, my sense being he was afraid of what I was going to do. What I did do, was call him, make him come to where I was, and gave him a bear hug that I held on to for a while. He hugged back. Then the same thing with Mel. We told him to get a shower, get something to eat, and we'll talk soon.

That said...a counselor we have worked with at Gateway said to us "I can always tell when I am getting somewhere when the kid starts behaving like the possessed girl from The Exorcist - They will try several ways of fighting you (the Exorcist) until they (the possessed) are broken down and are ready to be repaired". I thought that was an apt analogy, so I didn't get overly excited when our son was pleasant and reasonable in our first round of discussions: our talking points were: what did you learn from this, do you understand how and why things got to this point, do you understand as a result, that further consequences will occur? No one yelled, no one argued, he was calm, and seemed to understand what we were saying. Again, Mel and I made sure to add how much we love him, and that anything we do in regards to him is about keeping him physically and emotionally safe so he can grow up and have choices in his life.

The next day, the demon started to rear his head. He couldn't get out of bed, didn't want to go to school, wouldn't go to Gateway, announced that he was going out, he couldn't possibly stay home all day, it was beautiful out and he was bored. I put my foot down. Still didn't yell, but went over again the reasons he had gotten himself into this jam in the first place. He started to scream "I shouldn't be in this at all...all I had was a little weed for personal use, and the cop could have let it go, but NOOOOO, he has to get ME, and everyone else got away!!"

I said " first of all, weed in any amount is illegal. Secondly, you are under age. Thirdly, the cop did what he was supposed to, thankfully. And finally, you are blaming everyone else for your situation except for yourself! You need to learn that you control your choices, and therefore any consequence, good or bad that comes with it, is something you have earned". After much back and forth on this note, he finished "You guys are @$$holes!" I decided to use a little what I learned in PSST. I got into his physical space, leaned towards him and agreed with him.."we may be @$$holes, but we are @$$holes who love you and care about you more than any human on this earth!" The phone rang - it was his PO telling us we have a detention hearing for him tomorrow at Shuman. More to come...

(Clipart from Clipartheaven.com)

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Home Pass from the Institution (or Ooops- you're a quart low!)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Monday, April 05, 2010

We've discussed this a lot at PSST meetings and lately this issue has come up a bit for me dealing with parents outside of group. Some of our posts on preparing for and dealing with home passes are buried deep in our blog. I'm going to attempt to unbury them by placing links on this post. The first one is Home Pass from Institution: 10 things to keep in mind. In re-reading this, I realize that there are really eleven things to keep in mind. The comment at the end brings up #11, which is sex during home passes! Don't think it can't happen.

The next post is entitled Preparing for a Six-hour Home Pass. This is a little introduction to an earlier post followed by a link to our original role-play from 1997. If you don't see the link there or if you want to skip straight to it click original role-play.

I just noticed that the original was written almost exactly three years ago! In fact, the role-play mentions an Easter Visit.

I hope you all had a Happy Easter. I also wish all of you to have either (1)the best ever visits with your teenagers or better yet, I wish that (2)you all learn important stuff about what's going on inside that teenager-head!

In a way a home pass with your teenager is like lifting the hood of your car and checking the oil. When we see that we are a quart low (or sometimes two) we feel bad. Nevertheless, it's really good that we looked under there isn't it? The things our teens do and say on home passes are often indicative of what they are really thinking. Sometimes we can even see what they intend to do after discharge. We need to know. Sometimes it hurts, but it's always better to know than not to know. Sometimes we leave them in treatment longer because we hope they can either find the quart of oil they need, or better yet, just have the oil and the filter changed.

Also, while they are in inpatient we hope they will find "the miracle." However, we are not always aware that by not allowing them to manipulate us on a home pass we are providing treatment ourselves. When we stand firm on our talking points or when we stand up to them, look them in the eye, and say something like:

"No, not this time- this time we do it our way. And while you're in treatment, we hope that you come to understand that things at home are going to be different when you return."

Bam. Boom. The parent(s) who do this have just delivered perhaps a more effective treatment than the teenager got all week in the rehab. Rather than compare effectiveness of treatments it would be better to point out that the treatment administered by the parent compliments and enhances the treatment administered by the rehab.

In other words, the teenager who just got his "chain rattled" because he could no longer manipulate his parent on a home pass is now primed for treatment at the rehab. On the other hand, the parent who is still afraid to upset his teenager or is afraid to have a "bad visit" has confirmed to the teenager that it is still the teenager who is all-powerful. That all-powerful teenager is going to have a difficult time making good use of the treatment at the rehab. Instead, we are going to hear, "he's not ready."

Think about it. Why should he change? He is still powerful enough to scare his parents even though he is in inpatient isn't he? This teen will cruise though treatment knowing that when he comes home he'll still be the one-in-charge.

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A Summary of our April 3rd PSST Meeting
Posted by:Sally--Sunday, April 04, 2010

We had eleven family members in attendance at this meeting. There were so many issues going on for these families that we ended up talking and helping each other for two hours and fifteen minutes before we realized we did not even take our break.
One regular mom quoted Alexander Pope and said hope springs eternal... and this is true.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast: Man never is, but always To be Blest. - Alexander Pope
We will work through all of this and we will continue to fight the good fight.

Ethyl was there and brought some inspiration. (Read the post about her daughter Lucy who is now in the Navy). I was pleased that our other son, I will call him Frodo, came along to shed some light on how a sibling feels and lives with the fact that their home is in turmoil because of a teenager's addiction with drugs.
At any rate, we took our break when the meeting should have ended and then Rocco and Frodo and I had to go but I heard that several parents stayed on to do some great role playing.
Thanks again to our fearless leaders, Lloyd, Val and Kathie who we enjoy spending our Saturday's with to learn how to be good parents to children who have addictions.

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