Quote of the Week

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

Well-Deserved Recognition!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, December 22, 2014

The PA Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission recognized the Allegheny County Drug & Alcohol Unit with an award for the county's court-operated program of the year!  We applaud the group for their services to the community, and personally appreciate all they have done for our families.

Our own Val & Lloyd are in the center of this photo.

Congratulations to all!

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A bakers-dozen to keep in mind before taking your teenager on a home pass
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, December 09, 2014

How to Search a Teen's Room
(originally published Thursday, March 24, 2011)

A bakers-dozen to keep in mind before taking your teenager on a home pass from an inpatient drug treatment program.

1. Friends: Home passes are not to spend with friends. They are for family. Make that clear before you start the home pass. If your teenager has a problem with that then don't take him on the home pass. Some institutions make this clear to parents and some do not. This is a chance to flex some parent-muscle and demonstrate that things are going to be different from now on. If your teenager won’t commit to making this a family-only pass then postpone it until he is ready to make that commitment. This is a powerful way to send him the message that he is not in charge anymore.

2. Home passes are triggers for teens. Supervise your teenager every minute or as close to that as you can: Consider that some teenagers are going to get high on home passes and some will even smuggle drugs back into the placement. One girl that I used to work with went was on a home pass from Abraxas. She went out to get the mail. Unknown to her parents, she had already arranged with a friend to have some Heroin dropped off in the mail box. She went back to Abraxas high, smuggled heroin into Abraxas and got busted. The Mom was shocked. "I was with her every minute." Going out to the mail box has happened on other cases as well. Ask yourself this, “My teenager never used to want to go out to get the mail- wonder why he wants to do it this time?” Don't underestimate your teen. A home pass is a big relapse trigger.

Some institutions drug test after home passes and some only do it if it is requested by the PO or by the parent. Request one.

3. Check your teenager’s bedroom and other areas of the home with a fine tooth comb before you bring him back home: Often this is when parents find drugs and money. Not only drugs but money should be confiscated because it was probably drug dealing money. Sometimes they hide things in the basement too. If you can arrange with your local police to do bring a drug dog into your house that is a huge help. You might be surprised even if the dog doesn’t find anything he might “pause” at certain regular hiding places. Now you know where your teenager used to hide drugs.

Especially, if your pass is rather short and your teenager insists that you bring him back home even if for only a brief time, perhaps because he is home sick, be suspicious. Be very suspicious.

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

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

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

Write down all the rules of the home pass and review them with your teenager and his counselor before you begin the home pass. If your teenager balks at your rules then postpone the home pass. The very act of postponing the pass will send a strong message to your teenager that he is not in charge of you anymore.

6. Decide whether or not you are going to let your teenager smoke cigarettes on the home pass and stick to your decision. This is a values thing. For example, your teenager is not allowed to smoke cigarettes in the institution where he is placed (unless he is in an adult rehab or over 18 and placed in a halfway house); therefore, don't allow him to smoke when he is off grounds because he is still a resident of that institution and he should continue to follow the rules. This is often a big point of contention. It is another place that parents can flex some parent-muscle.

Exceptions to this smoking rule might be if one of his family smoke and plan to smoke in front of him. That might be cruel. Also, if he is 18 or over, the placement might not care if he smokes on his home pass. Check with his counselor and see how the institution views this before you decide.

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

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

8. Consider the music your teenager is listening to on the home pass- does it have a negative message? Then don't permit it. Confiscate it. At an outpatient drug treatment program teenagers formed small groups and were asked to come up with relapse triggers. While they all came up with somewhat different lists, one item that was on every list was music. Music generates powerful memories and emotions, which can lead to relapse. If the message of the music is pro-drug abuse then it is the last thing to which your teenager in recovery needs to be exposed. It’s also another chance for a parent to send a powerful message about who is in charge and by so doing flex some parent-muscle.

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

Some teenagers assume that they can treat their parents disrespectfully on a home pass. Stop that behavior if you can and report that information back to his counselor following the home pass. For example, sometimes it happens in the car right after the parent picks up the teenager. It might involve yelling, screaming, name-calling, or using an inappropriate tone of voice. Stop the vehicle. Don’t start again until there is an understanding that you are NOT comfortable driving the car with that kind of behavior going on. Consider returning your teenager back the institution early if you cannot trust that they will conduct themselves appropriately.

10. Don't keep secrets.  If your teenager asks you not to tell his therapist that he has done something, e.g., smoked, saw a friend, has a fight with you, ran off without supervision, failed to attend a 12-step meeting, or just about anything else that he thought it important enough to ask you not to report on- DON'T do it. Secrets keep us sick and, once again, if you keep secrets on home passes, he has every right to expect you to keep secrets once he is released back home. This is where he will try to guilt you. "Awe you're going to ruin everything! Just when I worked so hard! You don't want me to come home at all, do you?” Teenagers put a guilt trip on parents in order to get their own way. Maybe that worked before he went away to placement. Now it’s time to show him that doesn't work anymore.

Sometimes it seems like keeping a secret will help you and your teenager to become closer. Perhaps. However, it is comes with a price to high to pay, e.g., you won’t be the one in charge anymore. Instead you’ll be a co-conspirator. Ask yourself if your teen needs a co-conspirator or a parent willing to be the unpopular adult in charge? Harry Truman is quoted as saying, “The buck stops here!” The secrets should stop here too because they only hurt your teenager and your relationship with him in the long run.

11. Teenagers sometimes engage in sex. Make sure it isn't happening on your watch. I once had a girl return to placement after a home pass and she told the staff that thought she was pregnant. She wasn't (phew) but it brought the whole matter up of what she was doing on her home pass. Her mother said that she knew her boyfriend didn't use drugs and she thought it would be nice to give the couple some alone time. Not! Her pass was deemed unsuccessful and her mother, who had assured everyone that she supervised her daughter 100 percent of the time, was embarrassed.

12. Put your big ears on. While you don't want to allow your teenager to be "in charge" of the home pass, neither do you want to be in charge of what he is saying or what he is feeling. Try listening closely and rephrasing what it is that you are hearing so that your teenager can hear what he is saying. This is a chance for you to get a good look into what your teenager is thinking and that kind of intel is invaluable for the entire team that is working with your teenager. If you come off the home pass with new information then that home pass was probably worthwhile.

Be in charge of the comings, goings, tasks, and activities performed on the home pass. Don’t try to be in charge of everything your teenager says or thinks. That will backfire.

A good phrase to remember is this: "Tell me about that." Follow that up by actually listening. Caution: The more you listen the more you may wish to debate. Don't debate with your teenager. Let your teen know before you start the home pass that you are not interested in debating. Listening is not debating. Following the rules is not debating. You can stick to the rules, listen to your teenager and then follow that up with "I'm glad you told me your side of that. Yes, you make a good argument but you know you have always been able to make a good argument. This home pass is chance to show us that you can follow the rules, so we are going to stick to the contract that we have prepared and that we all have agreed."

13. Give some positive feedback to your teenager if you find that he is acting more grownup. Sometimes the behavior on a home pass is so nice that you wonder who this teenager is and what have they done with your real teenager! That’s great. Mention it. Tell your teenager that you see big changes in him. Label his behavior “adult.” Tell them that you respect all the hard work that he has done in placement and really like the changes he has made.

Summary: Teenagers use guilt, intimidation and lying to vie for power. If you want be the one in charge of your teenager don’t wait until he or she is released from the institution. Start being in charge on off grounds passes and home passes. Let your teen find out that you are not as easily manipulated anymore. Let him know that the buck stops here.

Other home pass posts:

Home for the Holidays by Rocco and Sally

Scoring the Home Pass by Lloyd

Rocco's comment below suggested Where's Wendell's/ Wendy's stuff post.

or just put "home pass" in our search window in the upper right hand corner of this blog.

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Don't beat yourself up
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Tuesday, December 09, 2014

This came up at group last Saturday. I just want to post this link.  In general, this approach works well with complainers because, when we complain about everyone else, underneath this we are upset with ourselves.

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The Dangers of Sizzurp
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Doctors are warning of a cough syrup concoction called "sizzurp" that young people are abusing to get high. The addictive mix is made using soda, candy (often Jolly Ranchers), and prescription cough syrup.  Also known as “purple drank,” “syrup” and “lean,” the mix has been glorified in songs and internet videos.

“This is a very dangerous drug,” says Dr. Robert Glatter of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York. “It can lead to seizures and essentially lead you to stop breathing.”

Thanks for sharing this information, Wilma!  (Wilma said that her son's friends post about sizzurp.)

Click here to read more.

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Finding Hope ~ written by Jim
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Despite life’s everyday trials and tribulations, Cheryl and I (Jim) have so much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving and Christmas season. Our entire family is enjoying good health. Our granddaughter (who became the glue in repairing several family “tears” that addiction had ripped open) is now a beautiful toddler. Our third son, a Marine, is safe on U.S. soil for this holiday season.

In particular, we are so blessed our son, Andy surpassed his thirty-ninth month of sobriety. We are living a reality that at one point we would not have allowed ourselves to even dream it would come to pass. When your addict emerges from the darkness of addiction, everyday is a blessing.

For anyone reading this that has an addict still struggling, remember to just work to keep him/her alive for another day. Even in the face of overwhelming despair, there is always hope…always!

I saw recently saw this poem online and thought it was appropriate for the journey of an addict and hope.

Recovery Poem

There's a time I remember, A time I had Fun
No stress and no worries, When I was Young
Many moments of joy, Hanging out by the Sea
Many moments of Freedom, Many places to Be

As I grew Older, Some friends that I Met
We all started Using, For that I Regret
As Time went by Quickly, I used & Drank More
I soon Realized, It's the Booze I Adore

Problems with Family
And friends all the Time
My pain and my suffering
These faults are all Mine
The fun I once Had
Seems so distant and Far
My reality of Life
Was a lost distant Star

My pride and my Ego, So shameful to Be
This life I Created, Just wasn't Me
Relapse and Rehabs, Were right in my Sight
My future I Created, Did not look that Bright

My soul wanted Out, Like a cough from my Breath
Jails, Institutions, And then there is Death
I woke up one Day, To get the help that I Need
To start from the Beginning, Just like a Seed

To Grow more in Spirit, Have faith and I'll See
The true unseen Beauty, That lies inside Me
There's a time I Remember, A time I had Fun
I want that all Back, It has to be Done

With hard work and much Effort, The future I See
My reward for not Using, HAS NOW SET ME FREE ! ! !

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Holiday Celebration - Dec 6, 2014
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, November 23, 2014

The PSST 11th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration will be held on Dec 6, 2014 at our Wilkinsburg meeting.  Invitees include all PSST parents (both current attendees and alumni), in addition to all Wesley Spectrum therapists and Juvenile Probation staff who have been part of the PSST family.  

Please put the date on your calendar, and plan to join us!  Feel free to bring a food item to share - in the past, attendees have brought holiday goodies, pastries, a hot breakfast/brunch item, fruit, crackers & cheese, chips & dips, chili, etc.

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I Feel Alive
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, November 19, 2014

I Feel Alive

I feel alive when I want to die.
The drug enters my veins,
I can fly.
Heroin turns life around in the blink
of an eye.
Steals your confidence, worth, dreams,
your future.
It’s like torture.
Everything I said I’d never do.
Break all my morals, so do you.
Whenever you feel like it’s under control,
the voice says “I’m not done.”
And you’re screwed.
First thing on your mind
when you wake.  It’ll have your skin
crawling until the next hit.
It’ll turn you insane,
fill you with pain.
They say it’s progressive, sometimes fatal.

I don’t know if I’m strong enough for the battle.

Torrian R.

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Role-Play Saturday - Sat, Nov 22
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Role-Play Saturday . . . coming Saturday, Nov 22nd!

November has 5 Saturdays, so that means 2 Saturdays in a row without PSST, & that's a long time to go without great PSST support.  In addition, there are meetings where we just don't have as much time as we'd like to spend on role-plays, practicing our PSST skills.  Here's our chance!

There will be a special PSST meeting, focused on role-plays, scheduled for Saturday, Nov 22nd at the Wilkinsburg Probation Office.  The meeting will be held at the normal time, 9am-11:30am.  This is the regular meeting site where we hold our first PSST meeting each month; the address is 907 West St., Wilkinsburg, PA 15221.

Hope to see you there!!

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Won't you give me three steps, gimme three steps mister...
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, November 08, 2014

This article was originally written and posted on the blog on Nov 10, 2009, and is just as relevant today. As we discussed in today's PSST meeting, finding a way to agree with our teenagers can help to defuse a potentially explosive situation, reinforce our boundaries, and model adult behavior, while taking steps to build greater intimacy with our teens.

Won't you give me three steps, gimme three steps mister......gimme three steps towards the door! The method that we often cover at PSST is three simple steps. Keeping things simple is one of the primary goals of skills training at PSST. Some say that these are not really three steps- but what we hope is that you will keep three things in mind when you interact with your oppositional defiant, drug abusive, willful teenager.

The First Step is to agree with only a part of what they are saying; however, for the part that you have chosen to agree with - agree wholeheartedly with it. In other words, don't just say a quick agreeing statement followed by a "but" because that "but" negates the agreeing part.

If you are reading this and thinking, "Sometimes there is nothing that I can agree with" then I challenge you to look that statement over again. There is practically always something that you can affirm, even if it's the fact that your teenager has not lost their sense of humor. I refer back to one thing that Deb Cohen said at our last PSST, that interventions are best built around the strength of a teenager (strength-based) and when you find a small part- or a large part- of what a teenager says that you can build on, you are off to a good start at formulating an effective response.

The Second Step is to put your spin on the agreement. Turn it into your own talking point. Twist- not in a disrespectful or facetious manner but in a matter-of-fact way, just put your spin on it. We will give examples below. When thinking of this- it may be that the First Step and the Second Step are really one step because the part of the thing that you are agreeing with is often the same as the "twist." It may be that the reframing that we are looking for is really formed by the choice of what part of the thing you will agree with.

The Third Step is to hold your ground. This is often aided by starting with the phrase "nevertheless" or "regardless." These two words are truly power-words. Other words can be used; however, these two serve the purpose of keeping the speaker on track without making a judgment. For example, one can say "whatever" and that would also serve the purpose of keeping the speaker on track, but it carries a negative connotation or judgment of the thing that the other speaker was trying to use as a distraction. Just saying nevertheless and regardless does not hint at any judgment of the distraction- it just keeps the speaker on track. Another way to say it might be, "Even if that's true," and go back to the talking point but it's probably easier just to say regardless or nevertheless.

The door: I liked the analogy of "Gimme three steps, gimme three steps Mister, give me three steps towards the door" because we should not forget that these little interactions do not have to go on and on and on. Say it- mean it- and move on. Don't linger too long in an unproductive interaction because by lingering you give the impression that this issue is still up for debate. An exception to this is the technique we cover at PSST where you say, "Ask me again, ask me again." This is not really a contradiction however because when you move to the "ask me again, ask me again" maneuver, the subject is truly as closed as if you had simply just walked away.

Fluidity: We notice at PSST when we are role-playing this technique that we are often going back to step one. That is because teenagers continue to change what they are saying. When they see that they can't manipulate the parent one way- they quickly move to another angle. At that point it is possible to agree quickly with some part of the new angle- twist it- and land with a nevertheless just the same way. In fact, it's good if the teen keeps changing the angle because it is a demonstration that they get it that the original angle is closed. Eventually there will be no angles left.


Son: Dad I need twenty bucks to go to the movies tonight- you can't really get in for less, after you buy popcorn and soda.

Dad: I know!!!! It's ridiculous how expensive it is to go to the movies. In fact, it cost more for snacks sometimes than you paid to get in!

Son: Right, so can I have the money?

Dad: No, I'm not giving you twenty bucks for the movies tonight Son.

Son: Why not?

Dad: I'm not feeling it tonight Son. I have twenty bucks but I don't want to let go of it.

Son: That sucks- you are always so stingy. I mean I'm not saying you're the cheapest dad in the world, but you're up there in the top ten! And you know for sure that I'm not trying to buy drugs or anything and you still won't give me the money.

{This last comment allows two choices for what to agree with. You can go with the "yes I'm cheap" or you can go with the "I know you're not trying to buy drugs." The first one always works while the second one only works if the teen has been doing some good work on his recovery." }

Dad: I think you are exactly right Son- I trust that you would spend the money at the movies and it didn't even cross my mind that you might spend it on drugs. I know you did that two months ago when I gave you money- but I think you grown up a lot since then, and you seem so much more involved in your recovery now that I trust that you would not be buying drugs with the money.

{The twist here is to mention in a non-threatening way that in fact it was only two months ago that this young man did misuse money. Sometimes the twist is mild and it only allows you to mention something in a positive way but it still brings it up and puts it squarely on the table.}

Son: Right! I'm going to meetings every day- I call my sponsor, I go to my home group- so I deserve to go to the movies!

Dad: You deserve much in my book! My goodness- you've done some great stuff. And you're showing a lot more maturity- I mean hecks- just a month ago, when you didn't get your own way you had a really tough time with that- temper tantrums- and all kinds of stuff. But now you seem much more able to accept "No" for an answer- I think that's one of the biggest things that I've seen change in you.

{the agreement is that he has done great but the twist is that he is much more able to accept not having his own way. Now if he does not accept not having his own way in regards to the $20, he has just proved that he has not changed- it's up to him but the twist provides productivity}

Son: Great. So give me the money?

Dad: Aaaa- no- regardless Son, I'm just not generous today. Maybe I'm a bit on the cheap side like you said.

Son: So, when you see me suddenly relapse cause I'm getting so frustrated what will you think then? You'll probably wish you just gave me the money huh?

Dad: You're right again. I'll feel horrible if you relapse. I'd be scared for you and very disappointed too - especially cause it seems like you're really trying to stay clean this time.

{He is threatening us with a relapse- this is not a good sign as to where he is with his recovery; however, we will jump back to step one and it's easy as pie to agree at any time that a relapse is horrible and, yes, we will feel bad about it when it happens- then we twist by repeating what we already said that he seems to be doing things right this time and that would really make a relapse sad. By twisting in this direction we are taking this threat of a relapse to the bank and this is not where our young man wants us to go- now read down where we continue to twist this threat of relapse into some uncomfortable territory]


Dad: Sounds like you're really worried about relapsing.


Dad: I think that's something else that you do differently. Before- you never talked about urges and relapse prevention. But now I hear you being concerned about relapsing- you're talking about it- and you seem to know that you're not out-of-the woods with your recovery. You are often walking a very thin line between relapse and staying clean- and at least you're aware of it and you're talking about it. Good for you, Son.

{Now our twist has him walking a very thin line. This is not a person that we are going to hand $20 bucks too but we don't have to say that because we weren't giving up the money anyway but he will see that we are turning this threat back at him and he is going to have to try to do some damage control or back pedaling with this threat- which is fine- we hope that he does get off the threat thing}

Son: I'm not going to use Dad!

Dad: Oh I'm sorry. I thought that's just what you were saying- that you were worried about relapsing. [This is often the case with reframing or twisting. We are helping him to see what he is saying.]

Son: I'm just asking you how you'd feel if I relapsed because you didn't give me the 20 bucks that's all.

Dad: No matter the reason Son, I'll feel terrible if you relapse- like I said, I'll be worried that you might die and I'll feel disappointed. But, you're saying that you are NOT going to relapse over the 20$ so I guess I don't have to worry about that today then? I feel a bit better now that you put it that way!

{rather than argue about whether or not he threatened to relapse, we just go with the new statement instead and agree with that- in other words, back to step one}
Son: I'm not gonna use! [Looking angry] But I meant how would you feel if you thought that a relapse was your fault?

{He can't completely let go of that threat so we agree and twist it again}

Dad: You're right on the money with that Son! I'd feel worse even. In fact, I've really asked myself that a lot.

Son: What do you mean?

Dad: Well, you know, as a parent it's hard to wonder if I was a better parent if you wouldn't have become an addict. Like, you know I used to let you get what you wanted no matter what it was, cause I didn't want to see you have a tantrum. You know what I'm talking about. And I look back and I ask myself if that wasn't a large part of the problem- that I just didn't want to deal with you flipping out, breaking stuff, yelling at me, threatening me and stuff like that. Well, I'm not saying I caused your addiction, but I could have made better decisions and for goodness sakes I could have said "No" to you more often. Well, I don't know if you're noticing, but I'm working on that today.

Son: Yeah, so this is just you saying "no" for the sake of saying "no."

{that is so perfect we can simply agree and not bother to twist it. He expects us to deny that we are saying no for the sake of saying no but really it is part of the reason that we are saying no so just agree and move on.}

Dad: Yes! I think that is a good enough way to put it.

Son: [Glaring!]

Dad: listen, I got to run- if there's something else we can chat later OK? Call me if you need me Son. Oh, and I am proud of the changes you're making in your life- you know that, right?

{he's not coming at us with any new angles, so we take the opportunity to move towards the door}

Son: yeah.

It may appear as though this three-step thing takes a lot of thinking fast on the feet. Well, it does and it doesn't. Since the teenager keeps coming at you from different angles it does take some thinking; however, the themes keep repeating. After a while, you've heard them all and your responses stay the same. Once you've practised this with your teenager you'll begin to see how these themes repeat and you'll be ready with your agreement/twists. Then follow that up with a nevertheless or regardless if appropriate and head for the door!

Dad: later!

Note: The picture used is from Wikipedia. This post references the lyrics from Gimme Three Steps by Lynyrd Skyrnrd. No profit is made off of this picture or off of the link to the lyric and is only used here with reference given to source.

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The Beacon
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, October 25, 2014

I remember coming to PSST for the first time almost 4 years ago, worried about so many things.  These were dark times for our family, and at the time, we could see no light at the end of the tunnel.  One of the worst fears I had, after all we had been through with our son, and how much heartache might still be ahead of us, will he tear our family apart?  And can I – will I – still be able to love him?  Looking around the room, I asked myself, what about all of these parents?  Many of their children had been in multiple placements, physically attacked their parents, damaged their property, stolen money or property from their family, relapsed multiple times, been arrested by the police, and had generally put their parents through hell and back.  Can they – do they – still love their children?

What have I seen in our PSST group since then?  The love is so fierce, that it’s strong enough to knock you over.  Clearly, there is a lot of pain and heartbreak wrapped up in that love.  So many sleepless nights, gut-wrenching confrontations, and bitter tears shed.  We don’t get to experience joy and pride in quite the same way that other parents do.  We have changed our expectations – we are proud when our child earns his GED, or sticks with a new job for more than a month.  We are proud when our child accepts the consequences for violating a home contract, is clean for 30 days without a relapse, or makes a conscious decision to go back into rehab.  It’s certainly not what we expected or hoped for as parents, and it’s definitely not what we were prepared for.    

I still remember PSST parents Jim & Cheryl dealing with a very public and troubling situation with their son.  It would have been so easy for them to skip that week’s PSST meeting, but they came and shared their story.  I was so glad that they did, because their strength in the face of adversity was knock-you-over inspiring.  What hit me the most was Cheryl’s final comment – no matter what their son did and how much he disappointed them, even if he ended up on death row, they would still be his parents who would care for him and love him forever. 

We don’t really expect our children to see, understand, or appreciate the depth and commitment of our love for them.  Most “normal” children don’t either.  However, what is special for our children is that our love for them has survived crushing pain, and our commitment to them is forged in repeated disappointment and fear for their very lives.  And if they really caught a glimpse of it, they might think we are crazy, foolish, or just plain idiotic for caring so much.  Don’t get me wrong, we may get so angry with our children at times that we can hardly bear to see them, and at some point, we may even decide that it’s not good for anyone involved for them to live with us. 

But the love is there, shining brightly – a strong, unwavering beacon for them should they someday see it and decide to follow it home.

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Thoughts from a Recovering Alcoholic
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, October 16, 2014

"First of all, let me preface this by saying that getting and staying sober has been, by far, the best decision that I’ve ever made. There is no doubt in my mind about that.

But I’m also going to say something else that might not be what other people in recovery want to put out there, but what I have found in my experience to be completely true.

Sometimes, sobriety sucks.

* * * * * * * 

And absolutely, sobriety is a lot of work. But the result of that work is miraculous. I have amazing relationships, I have a life with meaning, I have an active spiritual life. The juice is completely worth the squeeze.

So yea, sometimes sobriety sucks. But you know what? Sometimes LIFE sucks. That’s just the nature of existence – there are ups and downs on the rollercoaster. The point is to make the most of the ride."

For the full post, written by Deanna de Bara, click here.

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Congratulations to our 2014 Parents of the Year !!!
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, October 10, 2014

As many of you already know, the 2014 Allegheny County Parents of the Year are our own Francois and Brigitte. Each year this award goes to the parent(s) who have used the parenting skills of PSST and who also have given back to other parents in a substantial way. 

Congratulations to this year's winners, who brought their family back from the abyss, as they faced their sons' drug use and behavioral health issues, and made some very difficult choices along the way. They have much to be proud of & grateful for, as their family has made significant progress. During their journey, Francois and Brigitte also provided very helpful advice to other parents via Yahoo Groups emails, as well as through their participation in PSST meetings and role plays. 

Since many parents were unable to attend the awards ceremony in Pittsburgh, the text of their acceptance speech is included with this posting. Just click "Read More" at the bottom of this post to read their speech. 

Although Francois and I were singled out as this year’s recipients, this is a shared award among many brave and talented people. The sole reason we are even standing here today is that parents and professionals, many of them from PSST, were there to help us when we most needed it, and we are forever grateful for the guidance, empathy, and encouragement we received. 

We are the parents of three boys. When our oldest son, Pierre, was 16, we started to notice changes in his friends, grades, and attitude. By the time he was 17, we could no longer deny his behavior problems and drug use. He was volatile, stealing from family members, flunking classes and refusing to go to school. The rest of us walked on eggshells around him; he was out of our control. 

We insisted that he go to an outpatient drug program. Unfortunately, the program didn’t make much of a difference in our son’s drug use or behaviors, but it was there that Francois and I discovered a very powerful weapon, the PSST group. We went to our first meeting the next week and were shocked to find that there were so many other parents dealing with similar issues. 

Over a three year period, our son ended up in multiple placements and rehabs, two stints at a halfway house, and two years of probation. He lost his driver’s license, was arrested for possession, could not keep a job. Eventually, he was asked to leave our home because of his drug use. 

At the same time, our youngest son, Serge, who is on the autistic spectrum, was suffering from serious mental health issues and had become physically and verbally abusive. He was hospitalized 6 times in a two-year period and he was also out of our control. Our family was in crisis and falling apart. There were daily battles and power struggles. There were tears, threats, accusations, holes in the walls and broken doors, and plenty of sleepless nights. We were dealing with two out-of-control children and trying to protect our middle son from the chaos. Those were what we fondly call the dark years. 

During the dark years, though, we had a guiding light. We went regularly to PSST meetings and tried to learn the skills we were so lacking. We worked on setting firm boundaries and stopping enabling behaviors. We made tough decisions, like having our son arrested to get him into treatment. We learned from other strong, skillful parents who also made tough choices. We mourned with parents who lost their children to drug overdose. We learned from role plays and from the wisdom of the professionals. Two of the most helpful skills we learned were: 1) that strong parents can still be respectful, kind, and loving even when they hate what their child is doing and 2) parents need to take an honest look at their own behaviors and ask themselves if they are helping their kids or enabling them. All the while we were learning and growing, so were our children. 

This story has a relatively happy ending. It’s not the kind of perfect, happy ending you find in a movie. It’s a real-life happy ending. Today our oldest son is 20 and living on his own. He has been working at the same job for close to a year and is learning that his choices in life come with consequences, both good and bad. Our youngest son, now almost 17, has been home for six months after extensive treatment at a residential placement, and is doing quite well with no physical altercations. We are amazed to think of where we were three years ago and where we are now as a family. 

Our family is working to heal old wounds and resentments, to forgive and to accept, and care for each other again as a family. From the bottom of our heart, we want to thank the parents of PSST who supported us, the judges, probation officers, and police who helped keep our family safe and get our children the treatment they needed, the therapists who worked with all of us, and a special thank you to a very unique group of people: Lloyd Woodward, Val Ketter, Kathie Tagmyer and her team, and Jerry Stradford. Lastly, we thank our boys, Pierre, Jacques, and Serge, who have shown incredible perseverance and a willingness to grow and change. This award is for all of us.

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Training available for Volunteer Parent Coaches
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is looking for parents who might be interested in their volunteer parent coach program. Cathy Taughinbaugh, a certified Parent, Life and Recovery Coach, has been participating in this program for over a year and has found it to be a powerful support system for parents who are struggling with their child's drug or alcohol use. It's a great way to give back and help other parents.

Looking for Experienced Parents to Help Support other Families Facing Drug or Alcohol Problems with their Kids
Have you or someone you know had personal experience with a drug or alcohol abusing child and want to use that experience to help other families facing similar problems? We are looking for 8-10 experienced parents in the New Orleans, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh, PA areas who are interested in getting free, specialized CRAFT ((Community Reinforcement and Family Training) training to learn how to be a volunteer parent coach. Your first-hand experience understanding the impact of drugs and alcohol on a family is an incredibly valuable resource for other families. Wouldn't you have benefited from someone listening and helping you who had walked in your shoes?

Please respond to Cathy Taughinbaugh at contact@treatmenttalk.org immediately to learn more. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the Center for Motivation and Change is offering this CRAFT-Based Peer Support parent coach training in New Orleans, Los Angeles, Boston, and Pittsburgh, PA this fall. Materials and training are provided at no cost to you. You are not required or expected to have a professional background in substance abuse, just your own personal experience. After the training, you will become part of a national group of parent coaches (Parent Support Network) who help and support the many parents who feel hopeless, alone, and ashamed of their child's disease of addiction.

The trainings in the 4 metro areas will be provided by an experienced local psychologist, a specially trained parent coach 'mentor' and a professional staff member from the Partnership. CRAFT has been proven to be effective in helping families encourage their adolescent or young adult child toward healthy change. This training will also enable you to be a more effective communicator with your own children and family. Together we can learn to support each other. 

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Celebrate with us at this week's Wilkinsburg PSST Meeting!!
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, September 28, 2014

Come celebrate with us! As part of our regular Wilkinsburg PSST meeting on Saturday, October 4th, we will also be announcing the Parent(s) of The Year for Allegheny County. 
Each year this award usually goes to the PSST parent(s) who have used the parenting skills of PSST and who also have given back to the PSST group in a substantial way.
The official award will be presented on Thursday, October 9th at the annual county awards ceremony, which begins at 6 PM (and lasts about 2 hours).  The event is held at the Family Court House, 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA (the Old Allegheny County Jail) on the second floor.  Please consider coming to the county awards ceremony to support our PSST parent(s) receiving this award!

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National Recovery Month
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, September 23, 2014

In its 25th year, Recovery Month promotes the societal benefits of prevention, treatment, and recovery for mental and substance use disorders. This year’s theme, “Join the Voices for Recovery: Speak Up, Reach Out,” encourages people to openly speak up about mental and substance use disorders and the reality of recovery, and promotes ways individuals can use to recognize behavioral health issues and reach out for help. Recovery Month spreads the positive message that behavioral health is essential to overall health, that prevention works, treatment is effective and people can and do recover.

I could not imagine a life without alcohol. It was my everything – until it ripped me apart. ~ Ellie

I am so thankful for each day I am sober and I would never take back anything. I am the person I am today because of my experiences. I am not ashamed to say I am in recovery…for life. ~ Meghan

Helping people find sobriety and community has filled a hole in me that I was trying to fill with alcohol. My life is anything but boring and best of all, it’s fun. ~ Amanda

Today my life isn’t about hiding and getting what I want, it is about helping people, sharing my passion for recovery and hope! ~ Elizabeth

Recovery has given me the chance to become who I was always meant to be, and to help others do the same. ~ Beth

One Day at a Time is used in all 12-step programs and even though it may be an old and dusty bumper sticker slogan, I noticed this really works for me especially when I choose to stay in the moment. ~ Pilar

For more information about National Recovery Month, click here.

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National Drug Take-Back Day: Sept 27, 2014, 10am-2pm
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 17, 2014

On Saturday, Sept 27, 2014 from 10am-2pm, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will hold its 9th national “Drug Take-Back Day” to enable patients, caregivers and pet owners to properly dispose of unwanted prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications at no cost.

Since launching the nationwide Drug Take-Back Day effort in 2010, the DEA has collected more than 3.4 million pounds (1,733 tons) of prescription medications. 
Help to protect our young people (and others) from overdoses and/or accidental ingestion of prescription medications.  Help to keep our water supply safe – don’t flush unwanted medications down the sink or toilet!  

For a searchable list of collection sites nationwide, click here.

The following additional information about the importance of proper disposal of unwanted prescription medications is taken from the Pennsylvania Resources Council websiteThe mission of the PRC is to lead and promote individual and collective actions to preserve Pennsylvania’s environmental resources for each generation.

There are numerous reasons why prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals become unwanted or unneeded. Many people stop taking drugs due to side-effects, their lack of effectiveness, or quicker recovery periods than anticipated. And medications often reach their expiration dates before they are completely used. But people are also being prescribed and buying more drugs, per-person, than ever before in this country.

On a national level, estimates point to upwards of 200 million pounds of pharmaceutical waste being generated each year. Over the past few years, pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors have been detected in growing amounts in surface and drinking water sources around the country. This issue has been increasingly covered in scientific literature and the mainstream media. A series of Associated Press stories brought the issue to the national spotlight in 2008.

In addition, prescription medications have become the drug of choice for teens and other age groups. Each year, tens of thousands of our children and adults die or become critically ill from overdoses and/or accidental ingestion of prescription medications. Citizens, scientists, political leaders, law enforcement, and health care professionals are expressing concern about the proper disposal of pharmaceuticals; the old, widely-touted advice to flush these materials is no longer acceptable. But few practical and readily-available solutions currently exist for the safe disposal of unwanted pharmaceuticals. As early as 2006, however, some waste management boards and sanitary and wastewater authorities began offering pharmaceutical collection events in states around the country including Maine, Washington, Minnesota, and California among others.

President Obama signed the "Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act of 2010" into law on October 12, 2010. The law removes a key barrier to creating statewide programs that allow residents to safely return and dispose of leftover medications. The legislation is intended to support the creation of medication take-back options that reduce prescription drug abuse and reduce the amount of pharmaceuticals getting into the environment. Once the new law is implemented, providers of medication take-back programs will have more options for where and how they set up programs that accept controlled substances, such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Ritalin.

Currently, only law enforcement can accept narcotics and other controlled substances from residents. The intent of this federal law is to authorize other convenient community return locations – like pharmacies – for secure disposal of controlled substances. Currently pharmacy take-back programs (the legality of these vary from state–to-state) around the country can only accept the return of over-the-counter medications and prescription medications that are not controlled substances. However, controlled substances make up about 11% of prescription drugs sold.

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Support Groups
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, September 13, 2014

Why do I need a support group? 

There is no need to stay isolated and alone with our fears. In fact, it is proven that when we reach out to others and share our experiences, we get stronger. When we are stronger, the addicts in our lives have a better chance of recovery. 

When one person in the family is addicted to drugs and alcohol, we all get sick. And while we cannot control the choices our children make, we can control the choices we make. But how would we know what the choices are, what works and what doesn’t work, if we don’t participate in a forum where we can learn about what has worked for others? ~ Lauren Springer 

For the rest of Lauren’s article, click here

We are able to feel both supported and challenged in a group experience. As the group bonds and trust develops, people feel safer to speak honestly with each other. In groups we can both get and give. Both feel good. The experience of past loss, damage or trauma (whether from our family or from other relationships), may have profoundly affected our self- concept. A group can become a "family" that responds to us very differently, and can give us a corrective experience that impacts us emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. We can also learn that conflict is part of being in relationship, and can be tolerated and worked through. We can't rationalize our negative feelings away, but I believe we can slowly heal as we learn to take in the love and acceptance that emerges in a group. ~ Wendy Fennell 

For the rest of Wendy’s article, click here.

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