Quote of the Week

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

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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