Quote of the Week

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

A New Year's Promise - submitted by Daisy
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, December 30, 2012

Thanks, Daisy, for sharing this!


As long as I live, I will always be your parent first and your friend second.  I will stalk you, I will flip out on you, I will lecture you, drive you insane and be your worst nightmare, and I will hunt you down like a bloodhound when I have to, because I love you.  When you understand that, I will know you have become a responsible adult.  You will never find anyone in your life that loves, cares, prays or worries about you more than I do.  If you don't mutter under your breath "I hate you" at least once in your life, then I'm not doing my job properly.

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Scoring the home pass
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, December 29, 2012

(Originally posted November 7, 2011)
Just a note about scoring home passes. This is where you set the bar. If you rate the home pass "successful" mostly because you've seen improvement and you want to encourage your teenager, then consider this: his goal is to have a successful home pass. Period. Oh sure he may have other goals but none of them rise to the importance of just having his home pass rated as successful.

Once you say it was successful you have told him that's good enough. Not only does this have repercussions for future home passes but it has repercussions for the behavior that you can expect once he is returned home from placement. This is really a rare opportunity for you to send a strong message of where you want the bar set and what your expectations are for his behavior.

For example, perhaps you were tested over and over about his wanting to break the rules. Each time you used your parenting skills, e.g., use of power words such as nevertheless and regardless to win the day. OK, you correctly say to yourself that he has to test you to see if you are really going to enforce those rules or not. Fine. However, at the end of the day, or in this case at the end of the home pass you feel exhausted and couldn't wait for it to be over, what does that mean?

In answer to that I'm not sure we have a hard and fast answer. Because he did follow the rules and isn't that what counts? Well, yes on the one hand but if in fact this means that each and every home pass is going to be an exhausting affair, and return home after placement is going to begin a lone exhausting battle to enforce every rule, then perhaps we have to look at this and wonder if set the bar to low. After all, it's not like these rules wern't laid out ahead of time.

In other words, while some testing of the rules might be considered OK and might even be expected, acceptance of badgering might be a missed opportunity for the parent to set the bar higher. Trust your instincts on this. If the visit felt bad, are you being honest when you report that it was successful. One reason that this is important is that Kathie and I like to see three successful home passes before discharge home.

All I want to do here is challenge PSST parents to make the best use of the home pass that you can. It's a window of opportunity.

Here's a suggestion for home pass guidelines that I don't' think we've given in any of our other posts about home passes. Try to strike a balance between some testing and too much testing of rules.

Teen: Mom, I want to call my girlfriend. She's going to be upset if I don't at least call. I mean C'mon, at least one phone call is that asking too much? You get one phone call in jail even.

Mom: [Mom is tempted to cover, once again, the purpose of "family only home pass" but she reminds herself that this is ground that has been covered before over and over and over. So instead she tries this.] I know you hate that rule, you feel it is terribly unfair. And while I don't understand exactly how important this call is, I hear you that's it's pretty darn important. Might not be life or death but it sounds like it is just under that on the scale of importance in your life.

Teen: Right! I gotta call her Mom please let me please let me please let me.

Mom: This is the best I can offer. You go ahead, say for the next hour, ask me if you can call her. I know you need to test us on this. We'll have this conversation or whatever you want to call it, until 2:00 O'clock. After that, I need you to stop asking if you can make that call. Otherwise, I'm afraid our whole weekend is going to be exhausting, at least for us. Do you see what I'm saying?

Teen: You're saying go ahead and ask but if I ask all weekend that's unacceptable?

Mom: Right, that's exactly what I'm saying- great job hearing me.

Teen: But that's not fair.

Mom: How would this be more fair? [Use of open-ended question. More effective for opening up teen than saying "why not?"]

Teen: Well, it shouldn't matter how many times I ask, as long as I don't make the call I should get a successful home pass, because I followed all the rules.

Mom: That's a very good point. Maybe I'm being too harsh about this, and by the way, I appreciate that you and I can have this conversation, but you see, this isn't working for me.

Teen: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, it works fine for you- you can ask me a thousand times, and push me all weekend to let you make that one call, and as long as you don't make it, you're good. Meanwhile, it hasn't been any fun for me having to deal with this over and over and over again all weekend. That's why I wanted to set a limit on it. You get to ask me that same question, or lets' say questions about violating the rules that we have already agreed on, for a certain time period. Maybe I can negotiate the time period, if you feel that ask me up to 2:00 PM is to restrictive for you. You can suggest a different time period, but I'm not comfortable that you get to ask me the entire weekend, then i'm exhausted, and you still get a "successful home pass." I don't feel that that is fair either.

Teen: Oh, I see, so if I ask all weekend then you'll tell Outside In that I was unsuccessful?

Mom: Yes, but I'll negotiate the time frame with you if you like.

Teen: Like what?

Mom: Well, let's say if 2:00 Pm is too restrictive for you, then how about you can badger us about that rule until 5:00 PM, that's three extra hours, that means you can badger us for almost four hours is you start right now, then drop it- just follow the rules the rest of the weekend, and we'll call that a successful home pass if nothing else unforseen happens? How's that- do you feel that is more fair?  [Notice labeling the behavior as badgering.]

Teen: I guess so.

Mom: OK, then that's a deal. Let's get started. Ask me if you can call your girlfriend or whomever you want to violate the home rules that we already agreed on before you left for the weekend.

Teen: Can I call her?

Mom: No. [pause.] go ahead ask me again.

Teen: This is stupid.

Mom: Kind of - yes, but at least I feel that it's more fair.

Teen: I'm not going to get to call her no matter how many times I ask.

Mom: I agree.

Teen: I'm done. I'm going to my room. Don't bother me OK?

Mom: Take a break Son it's OK. We'll talk about this later.

Teen: Don't think you won or you heard the last of this.

Mom: Oh no. I'm sure we'll talk about it later.

This role-play was not intended to be the end-all-be-all prototype of home pass rule negotiations. Many of you could write better ones I expect. My only intention was to show that you do not have to have an exhausting weekend and still rate it as successful. There is a way or perhaps call it a goal, to let your teenager know that enough is enough. "It's fine that you are following the rules but if the entire weekend was spent testing me, then no I'm going to have a problem calling that successful."

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Stop to Enjoy Today! - submitted by Daisy
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, December 20, 2012

A thought for the day from Daisy, especially appropriate during this holiday season . . . Many of us worry about tomorrow so much that we sometimes forget to enjoy today!

"I have a stairway in my house, and every time I look too far ahead when I walk up or down the steps, I stumble and fall. I don’t have any problem when I pay attention to the step I’m on or the one that is just ahead. It’s the same for our lives. Looking too far ahead can cause us to stumble and fall."

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Thank You from Justin
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, December 16, 2012

First and foremost I want to thank all of those in attendance at PSST on Saturday, December 15th for the Big Announcement. It was so nice to see such a wonderful turnout and the support is incredible.
As you probably know by now, I have accepted a job with Allegheny County Juvenile Probation and will be starting on January 14th, effectively ending my time at Wesley Spectrum Services on January 11th. While it is sad to step away from a job that I am very passionate about, I am stepping into a job that I am even more passionate about. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to take all of the wonderful skills I have learned and apply them in a different facet.
For those of you who attended the meeting, know that I was speechless after everyone's comments and could only mutter the words "thank you." The truth is, I was extremely humbled by all of the kind words and show of support that I was rather choked up. Over the last 2 years I have learned so much from not only Lloyd and Kathie (Val and Jerry, too!) but all of the parents as well. You have allowed me to see you in vulnerable times and have accepted advice with open arms, which I know is very difficult at times. I'm very impressed also with how each of you has grown, many by leaps and bounds. I'm thankful for how embraced I felt from the beginning and the compassion shown towards new parents to the group. PSST has been a wonderful experience for me and I have every notion of attending from time to time in the future. I will also spread the word to the families I work with because I have seen such positive effects on all of you that attend.
I'm truly grateful for the guidance of Lloyd and Kathie in particular; I could not have grown in the ways I have without the support from them and Val. I'm looking forward to this new chapter in my career and will not forget any of you. Again, thank you for all of your continued effort to become empowered and save your children's lives! Without all of your dedication to each other and your kids, as professionals we would likely not have the same level of joy with our jobs as we do. As parents we all have been given a gift and sometimes it is up to us to keep that gift safe; never feel bad about doing everything in your power to ensure that happens!

Thank you so much for everything that you all have said and given!

Thank you also for allowing my wife and daughter to share in the last half of the meeting!

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Justin Innocent

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If you loved me you would (fill in the blank).
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, December 16, 2012

About this image
It's tempting to challenge a loved one, a child or a spouse to prove that they love you.

"If you loved me you would respect my space."

"If you loved me you wouldn't threaten me."

Don't be surprised if you see your teen using this approach back on you.

"Mom, if you loved me, you wouldn't call my Probation Officer." "Dad, if you loved me you would let me have the car tonight. You know how important it is to me."

The real problem is that love has nothing to do with it.

Love isn't enough. If love was enough then we wouldn't have any parents at PSST because you couldn't find any more loving parents than at PSST.

People show love in different ways. It's up to the shower of the love to decide how to show it. It is also true, however, that some people, either teens or adults, give lip service to love without demonstrating it. Love is an action word and sometimes we are right to ask for reassurance that someone loves us; however, if we are using our need for reassurance to try to control a loved one's behavior it is probably going to backfire at some point.

I am reminded again of what we say in PSST and this time I looked up the source: “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." -James Arthur Baldwin.

Show love to your loved ones and likely (at some point)your loved ones will show love back. Sometimes I think we fail to consider how many different little ways we can show love to our loved ones. Let's consider for a moment how we as parents but more than that as people can show love to our loved ones.

For example, have you told your teen that you love them today. Have you told them that you are thinking of them? Have you texted them lately? Have you written them (snail mail anyone?) When's the last time you bought a card for your teen when it wasn't their birthday or it wasn't Christmas? What is their favorite foods and when have you made that favorite dish last? Is there a movie they are dying to see and why not surprise them with movie tickets? How about spending more time and just listening instead of lecturing? How about letting them know in some other way that you were thinking of them?

There are lots of ways, but as it often happens, parents become resentful because the teenager has accrued so much power. And when we are resentful we don't care to do the little things. When we feel like we are being taken advantage of, then we don't want to show love. Instead, we want love shown to us and we want reassured that our teens love us and we fear that really they only want "stuff." Even then if we roll the tape back we are probably the ones that started equating "stuff" with love. "See how much we got you for Christmas?"

Here's some alternatives to say when you are thinking of saying, "If you loved me you would _____.

"I know you love me, I'm your mother and you have your special ways of showing that you love me. I'm just saying another way you could show me that is to clean your bedroom really really good today. You know that Aunt Cheryl is coming over and it would mean a lot to me to have the whole house clean. I can help you if you need it or if you don't need help that's fine too."

Even though I suggest this as an alternative to saying, "If you loved me you would ___" it is probably better to just separate the love thing from behavior. "Hey, I know you don't need to hear this, but I need you to clean your room really really good today. It's a big day! Aunt Doris is coming and I'm going to be getting the whole house in order."

Associating love with behaviors is a slippery slope. Consider the above example but put the shoe on the other foot. When that gets turned around on you it might look like this: "Mom, I know you love me and you have your ways of showing that, but one way you could show that is to ask the Judge to send me home with you today." Of course, then you have the option of replying, "You're right I love you very much and today I'm more concerned about your safety so it's not all about love today."

Another side of this coin is trying to control an addict by withholding love. "Oh, if you do that again, I'm done with you- forget you- don't even speak to me because I won't be talking to you." The problem with this is that it doesn't work. Even when teenagers rob, kill, rape or whatever, parents still love them. Love isn't something that you can just turn off like a light. Pretending as though you can turn it off is phony and in the end it has a way of backfiring on you.

If you've been to PSST you know that we talk about how to adopt a Non-enabling approach to your teenager that can still be done with love. We just stop giving them stuff, stop giving them money, stop giving them privileges, or in some other way hold them accountable for their behavior. Just don't pretend that you won't love them because no one is going to believe that one.

If your teenager doesn't do what you want you know it doesn't mean they don't love you. They love you. They just love stuff, power, drugs, and other things too.

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The Conversational Best Practices of Roxie and Lenny - written by Roxie
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, December 10, 2012

The Conversational Best Practices of Roxie and Lenny - written by Roxie

Lenny, my 17-year-old twin son, has been dibbling and dabbling in drugs and alcohol since age 13. To my surprise, he was leading a double / triple life outside of my happy home. Just a sidebar - one’s definition of happy may not be the same as one’s children. Apparently, happy to me meant boring to Lenny. As Lenny’s mantra goes, “You know what happens when I get bored, don’t you?” Was that a threat or just an in-Roxie’s-face demand to keep him purposefully occupied so he will not hang with his homeboys and get high? Both.
To help Lenny redefine what true happiness should be, we have embarked on weekly counseling sessions together at his halfway house. My reluctance took months, for I thought it would be an hour of wasted time with my uncooperative kid and a counselor explaining the meaning of co-dependency. To my wonderful surprise, it has turned out to be one of the most significant, positive experiences involving Lenny and myself.
In the first meeting, I noticed a small white board next to the counselor’s chair with eight rules of conversational engagement that Lenny and I had to follow during our session.    I was awestruck. It was as though I was discovering a new form of hieroglyphics. I experienced what Oprah would call an “aha” moment. I have named these rules Conversational Best Practices. The rules are so simple, yet tantalizingly untied to my unruly tongue.
1.     Avoid interruptions. Instead, wait for the person to pause, or ask if it is OK to speak.
2.     Avoid talking for more than a minute.
3.     Avoid saying, “no” when someone asks for something. Instead, tell the person what you can do.
4.     Avoid rolling eyes or using negative facial expressions.
5.     Avoid swearing, shouting, sarcasm, or statements that are hurtful.
6.     Avoid talking about past problems or weaknesses. Instead, suggest solutions and alk about strengths.
7.     Talk about things you want. Do not give criticisms about the negative attitudes you dislike.
8.     Speak in a soft and conversational tone of voice.
Lenny and I are both amazed at how well these rules are working in our counseling sessions. I would recommend them for everyone. Unfortunately, I realized that I use none of these at home. My inside voice is only used in the bathroom. I roll my eyes and snap my neck while I let my sarcasm soar. An example of Roxie’s frustrating conversational attack on Lenny’s dad would be, “Your parental involvement with your family is so minimal that you carry around the family picture that came with the wallet!” Those type of non-cursing statements are also used while my hands are on my hips; vocalizing with an outside voice. Swearing is non-essential; point well taken and unmistakably understood.
Lenny showed empathy and concern during his last home visit with me. “Mom, you are a completely different person talking to me at the counseling session than you are talking to Daddy and my sister at home.”
Indeed. Although it is not part of the rules, I was literally speechless. In my uncomfortable silence, he repeated the statement.
I told Lenny that I would start using the rules at home, without telling his dad and twin sister. It would be an experiment to see if they notice how I have morphed into a kinder, gentler Roxie. Lenny promised to hold me accountable on his home passes.
In the interim, I will update my husband’s wallet with a new family photo.

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Posted by:Rocco--Wednesday, December 05, 2012


Having a young family member in placement during the holiday season is agonizing.

Sometimes it is far too much and parents “surrender”. They sincerely want to practice the "tough love" discussed at their parent meetings, never-the-less, maybe this year is not the year.

With a lot of guilt they invite their addict child home for “just a few hours” on a home pass.

No judgment here and no opinion; We simply know this “invite” happens.

If you decide to have your addicted child home, please live with your decision. It is important to set realistic boundaries and reasonable expectations in your heart and in your head. Your “guest” child is very sick. Keep that fact close during their visit.

Remember that your child is no longer the cuddly little kid that rolled down the steps in their footie pajamas just a few short years ago. Those days are gone and it takes inner strength and effort to be able to accept that fact.

Acceptance is one of our many holiday “side dishes” as parents of addicts.

Your child has become both physically and mentally altered by their addiction. For your parental perspective to remain clear this must be understood. Keep in mind that ultimately the responsibility of their recovery belongs to them. Plain and simple, the call is their burden.

For those who are struggling with the decision to have them spend a few hours at home with you, we only pray and hope that it works out well. Clearly set and discuss your expectations and your rules with them prior to the day of their visit.

Along with the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce you will want to serve up a side order of “boundaries” for your holiday table. Keep the rules realistic but enforce all of them. Their visit is number one a “Family Visit” - No friends and no phone calls.

If they can’t agree with your rules you want to reconsider your invitation. Once they are at home be aware that if they are having difficulties meeting your rules and expectations that you are permitted to end their visit early. Good or bad - discuss their visit honestly with their counselors.

If you opt to have your child suffer their own consequences of spending their holiday away from home, we wish you continued strength as we know this decision cuts your heart like a razor.

Either way; joy does not come easily but we sincerely wish you peace and strength this Holiday Season.

If you need to discuss this or other issues please come to our next PSST Meeting.

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A Rocky Road with Bam - written by Wilma
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, December 03, 2012

A Rocky Road with Bam by Wilma

Well, it's been almost eight weeks since Bam Bam was transferred to an adolescent ½-way house, and he has had some rocky times so far.

Initially the facility turned him down for admission but his team asked that he be re-evaluated and he was accepted.  Bam has a history of aggression and mental health problems but they decided to give him a chance.

He was working a day program and, in addition to being evaluated there, he was breaking rules. He was calling his friends including his cousin that he has used with, going on facebook and making lunch dates with his friend Melvin (the same "friend" who took Bam out last Thanksgiving only to return in less than an hour with a stash of weed).

He told his boss that he had the lunch plans, which they made him cancel and so he got in some trouble at the house. When he called to tell me about this incident, he started off the phone call with "well I didn't get kicked out."

In addition to this he had also punched an outside wall at the house. The director felt the hand needed looked at, so the day before Thanksgiving Bam went to the ER and had a splint put on. However, he refused to continue to wear the splint.

Bam was also staff-splitting so disciplinary action was taken, which involves losing home passes. He was able to get 5 hours on Thanksgiving as the disciplinary action began at 3:00 Monday for 72 hours so it ended at 3:00 Thursday.

The holiday was awkward as we had to keep eyes on Bam at my brother's house. There were triggers there, the biggest one being Bam's cousin that he's used with. However, my family was glad to see him and I think Bam was glad to spend time with our extended family. He hasn't seen anyone except my sister in the 7 months that he's been away. We also took him home for about a half hour and he got to see the dog and home for the first time in almost 7 months.
The Tuesday before Thanksgiving we were in court for Bam's review before his judge.

Bam was officially committed to the ½-way house and the judge agreed that Bam needed to be there. Prior to the hearing, Bam had told me that he thought he had enough of being in placements and that he was going to ask the judge to let him go home. Then he said that he was going to ask the judge to override the ½-way house disciplinary action. His therapist told him if he was going to do that, she would not go to bat for him regarding the partial holiday pass. Thankfully he didn't make these requests and cause any problems in court.

In fact his judge brought up Bam's award winning essay and mentioned that he had read it that day! He told Bam that he'd like to see him implement the suggestions he had in the essay!!!

This I want to see...
In the last several weeks Bam has been looking for a job and has had some interviews. He has to work while he is at the ½-way house since he is not in school. He has had some interviews and almost had one job, but the hours would not work out. However, he was hired at a restaurant close to the house. He called to ask us to buy him shoes (he had to have black, non-skid restaurant shoes) which we picked up for him. I thought here we go again buying yet another pair of shoes for Bam for a job and hoping this time it's for real.

Well, we were visiting him today and he told us he lost the job. He said it's because they knew he was living in a ½-way house but then he also said something about them wanting him to work more than 36 hours (which is what he can work while being at the house).

I'm not sure what the truth is. I never know when he is telling the truth.
Another issue with Bam that started the first week is that he was selling his stuff for money to buy cigarettes (more rule infractions).

Yes, he sold the earrings he bought the day before arriving at the house, at least one hat that we know of, and clothes. I suspect he is also trading his stuff. He denies that he does this, but where is the money coming from?? He did have some money he earned at ABC123 and he spent almost the entire amount on ONE pair of shoes!!
Oh, and another bombshell is that Bam has decided when he is discharged from ½-way house, he is going to get his own apartment. He had told me and Fred that he decided to do this and the details have changed a few times – first he was moving himself to an expensive area, then he was moving in with his buddy Eddie who had been selling weed out of the family basement, and the third choice was moving in with his drug-dealer friend who lives in a questionable neighborhood. However, I don't think these options will fly with his P.O.
We spoke with a staff person who said that Bam went to church today (he is going every week) and she thinks he might be doing better with his sense of entitlement. We had a pleasant, short visit, with no turmoil.

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