Quote of the Week

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

Stop the Stinkin’ Thinkin’
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, December 31, 2015

AA warns the alcoholic about the stinkin’ thinkin’ that can lead a person to relapse.  But this type of negative self-talk is not reserved exclusively for alcoholics or drug addicts.  Negative thought patterns can lead the average person to self-pitying, self- destructive behaviors.  How can we escape the downward spiral?  Click here to read an excellent article about how to tame your inner critic.

The author of the article suggests an approach to achieving Learned Optimism, "where you dispute and refuse to allow negative self-appraisals to influence your decisions and actions. You, instead, will come to expect positive outcomes." 

What a wonderful message to start us out on the right path for the new year!

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Finding Inner Peace and Joy During the Holidays
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Feeling stressed out as the holidays approach?  You haven’t finished buying gifts for your family, the store didn’t have that perfect sweater in your spouse’s size, you dropped your phone and the screen broke, the garbage disposal ground to a halt, you already got a credit card bill that was twice what you were expecting, you just had a big fight with your mother-in-law, and the big project you are working on at work is giving you major headaches . . . what else could go wrong?

First of all, just breathe.

Now, consider the following tips, from the Positivity Blog:
1. Slow down.
2. Appreciate the little things instead of focusing on perfection.
3. Give a bit of joy to someone else.
4. Focus on what is most valuable.
5. Just accept how you feel right now.

For more detail about these tips, please click here.

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NO Parkway East closure during the PSST 12th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration !!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, November 23, 2015

Good News!! 

Pittsburgh's Parkway East will now be OPEN during the weekend of Dec 4-6.   The closure is now slated for the following weekend (to prepare for the Greenfield Bridge implosion).

It is likely that Penn DOT delayed the closure so that it would not interfere with our PSST annual holiday celebration at the Wilkinsburg location.  Thank you, Penn DOT!

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PSST 12th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, November 14, 2015

The PSST 12th Anniversary / Holiday Celebration will be held on Saturday, Dec 5, 2015 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, etc.

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Opioid Overdose Myths
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, November 12, 2015

What should you do when someone overdoses after using opioids (e.g. heroin)?  Sometimes figuring out what NOT to do can be as important as what TO do.  Below are a few of the common myths regarding opioid overdoses.  For more myths, along with explanations of why they are bad ideas, click here.  
  • Let them sleep it off?   Never!
  • Put them in the shower or bath?  No!
  • Once they are breathing again, don't worry, they’ll be OK?   No!

The same website gives the following recommendations for what you SHOULD do if you think that someone is overdosing on opioids.
  • Call 911
  • Give rescue breathing
  • Give Narcan/naloxone, if available
  • Never leave the person – wait for help

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2015 Parent of the Year Speech
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, October 31, 2015

Earlier this month, our own Allegheny County parents of the year were honored at the Juvenile Justice Week awards ceremony in Pittsburgh. It was heart-warming to see them accompanied by their son, as well as by several of their supportive family members.

Click on "Read more . . ." (below) to read their well-received speech and to see more photos from the event. 

My name is Tracey and this is Scott and we are here tonight to humbly accept the award for Allegheny County parents of the year.

When Lloyd Woodward, my son’s probation officer and head of the parenting group that we go to - PSST (parent survival skills training) - told us on a conference call that we had been nominated, we had polar opposite reactions. His was, Oh, no no no no no and I said  “Yes”!.

He said no, because we are surrounded by a team of incredible people; Lloyd, Kathie, Abby, Justin and every parent from our PSST group that laughed, cried, supported, advised and empowered us from our first meeting until tonight.

I said, “yes”! because I am grateful for the gifts that this group has given to us and what we have become thru this program.

With their help, we gained the knowledge, confidence and skills to enable us to learn enough to help our son to become a man that he - and we - can be proud of.

When your child chooses the wrong path, you feel many things: hopelessness, failure, fear, anger and guilt. You look for help and if you are fortunate enough in an unfortunate situation, you are paired with people that rally around you in a way that takes some of those feelings away.

You are no longer alone. If I had been lucky enough to meet these people earlier on, I don’t feel that our situation would’ve spiraled so far out of control for my family, because the knowledge that we have gained has changed us so much.

My son first got into trouble at 15. If I knew then what I know now, he would still be chained in my basement with just enough slack to do laundry. At that point, it was just the two of us living together with his dad living close by. We were newly divorced and couldn’t put our own feelings aside to help our son. We both blamed each other for our “polar opposite” parenting styles. We were so wrong.  Do you know how I now know that? Our son continued to get into more trouble. It became more than “call an attorney” trouble. It became “find a direct line to Jesus trouble”.

Wesley Spectrum, Lloyd Woodward, Michael Santicola, and Judge Tranquili stepped, or should I say, “jumped in”. That is when we started with meetings with Wesley Spectrum and what led us to PSST.

Our son was placed in Shuman (where he learned to value clothes that fit and shoes that cover all of your feet). From there he went to Abraxas (where he learned that whichever way you choose to run in any direction, you will get nowhere). And then to Liberty Station (where he learned that maybe my mom’s cooking isn’t so bad) to Glen Mills schools (where he learned that it can be beneficial to tuck your shirt in and keep your pants pulled up). Please know that this is an attempt at humor of what Jake has learned throughout his multiple placements. You don’t take a tour from Shuman to Glen Mills without making more mistakes though and without learning where you do not want to be.

Time will tell for all of us. Is our son perfect yet? The answer is no. Are we? His parents? Well, we are getting this award. J I do know that he continues to learn and so do we, with every meeting, every text, and every email that we share with “Team Jake”, as Kathie penned us at the very beginning. Team Jake consists of others of whom I have to mention; my sister Pam, who has loved my son as her own since he was born and throughout his time in facilities has provided him with letters, love, support and enough books to fill a library. And my Mother Jean, who has loved him so fiercely and who would never let me give up on my son.

I guess I should also thank my son’s father for what he has become throughout these last few years. He has shown a level of commitment and love to our son that I have not seen duplicated.  It took a lot of work to get us to this point and I am lucky to have him as the one to have walked this tightrope with me and as the father of my children.

I could not have done this without the support of those 3 either.

If I may go back, 5 minutes after that congratulatory call from Lloyd, I called my sister Jennifer to tell her and of course I downplayed “parent of the year” because to me that said that I had done an exemplary job at parenting and that could not be further from the truth, but Jen, who is a social worker in Cleveland, said to me, “Hey, it’s easy to parent a good kid.” And that said to me that sometimes, you just need to do the best that you can with what has been given to you and created by you, and to recognize when what you have previously done that hasn’t worked and that has led to your situation needs to be fixed. Hopefully, this is now the path that we are all on.

In closing, an old African proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child”. All of you are my village and I am forever grateful. 

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If you Want to Send a Note . . .
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, October 14, 2015

We’ve been hearing from a number of people who cannot make it to Lloyd’s retirement celebration this coming Saturday, but would like a way to send their personal well-wishes to Lloyd.  If anyone wants to write a note for me to print out & include with a group card for Lloyd, please email to Jenn at psst.jenn.brad@gmail.com by noon on Friday, Oct 16th.

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Lloyd is Retiring!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, October 12, 2015

Even when you know a change has been coming for some time, somehow it’s still a mini-shock when the change actually happens.

Lloyd has decided to retire, and this Saturday will be his last PSST meeting (Greentree).  We invite all PSST parents, current & past, to come to our meeting on Saturday at 9am to wish Lloyd our congratulations & best wishes in this new & exciting stage of his life’s journey.

P.S.  There will be cake, of course!

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PSST Parent of The Year Celebration
Posted by:Brigitte--Monday, October 05, 2015

At Saturday's PSST meeting, Steve and Tammy (their blog names) were celebrated as the 2015 Parents of the Year. They will receive their award on Thursday, October 8 at the Allegheny County Awards Ceremony. The event starts at 6 p.m, and is held at the Family Court House, located at 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh (the Old Allegheny County Jail).

Although divorced, these parents have formed a team who strive to assume a non-enabling approach to parenting. They have attended Parent Survival Skills training regularly to improve parenting skills. Both have progressed with increased communication skills, consistent limit setting, and relationship building.

Both have participated in role-playing designed to help increase skills. Both parents have helped other parents in PSST to improve their parenting skills. Additionally, they have worked and significantly improved their relationship with their son through therapy provided by Wesley Spectrum.

Five months ago Tammy and Steve were proud that their son, after completing both an intensive placement program and a halfway house program, was receiving clean drug tests, doing well in a part-time job, and getting excellent reports from High School. It appeared that their son had turned the corner. Then, Tammy became aware that their son was still participating in serious criminal activity. Working together they confiscated illegal material, took pictures of the evidence and reported him to the Probation Department.

Their son is now undergoing additional treatment at a new placement facility. Both parents continue to work closely with the Probation Department concerning discharge planning and continued relationship building. Both are anxious to have their son returned home and believe that this time he has really turned the corner; however, both also remain cautious that cutting his treatment short now might interfere with the hoped outcome.

From all the PSST parents and professionals, we congratulate Steve and Tammy on a job well done. Although they still have an arduous road to travel with their son, the skills and commitment they have developed at PSST will help them continue to support their son's efforts while remaining strong and unenabling.

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"Parent of the Year" Celebration Meeting
Posted by:Brigitte--Monday, September 28, 2015

Please join us on Saturday, October 3rd at our Eastern Probation Office in Wilkinsburg from 9 - 11 a.m. as we announce this year's Allegheny County Parent of the Year

We all know that each and every one of the parents who regularly attend PSST are real-life Parents of the Year, but only one family can be officially recognized at the annual awards ceremony. The Parent of the Year is selected for their acts of bravery in addressing their child's drug use and/or criminal behavior, demonstrating non-enabling parenting skills, and for being a role model to other parents.

At the PSST meeting, there will be cake, of course, and a very special guest speaker who will talk about his experience in the justice system and his life in recovery. We hope all PSST parents, old and new, will be able to attend. 

The official award will be given at the Family Court House, located at 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh (the Old Allegheny County Jail) on Thursday, October 8. The event starts at 6 p.m. (try to get there at 5:30) and runs about 2 hours. Please come if you can and support our PSST Parent of the Year and to hear their personal story.

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Our Son is in Jail
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Narcotics Anonymous tells us that continued drug use is a sure-fire path to institutions, jail, and/or death.  Our son Dylan is continuing to follow that dangerous journey.
After 4 years of spending a high percentage of his time in juvenile placements, it appeared that Dylan was trying to turn his life around.  He expressed interest in going to college.  He spent 6 months in ¾ housing and accepted his 6-month clean tag with pride.  Unfortunately his 2 separate attempts at college failed, due to drugs (alcohol, marijuana) and poor choices for friends.  And now, his most recent actions have landed him in the county jail for assault and attempted robbery.  We expect that he will serve some prison time for these felony charges.

How are we reacting to Dylan’s actions? 

After our initial shock, we were left with strong feelings of disappointment and sadness that he would make such choices, choices that are so completely foreign to our family’s values and beliefs.  We are so grateful that no one was badly injured or killed.  We still love Dylan, and will help him when he gets out of prison, but only if he commits himself to making serious lifestyle changes.
Are we obsessing over what he did?
We refuse to drive ourselves crazy by obsessing over what he did, why he did it, and how much time he will spend in prison.  As one of our PSST parents said at a recent meeting, we are not distancing ourselves from our son, but instead, we are separating ourselves from his actions and his drama. 

Did we post bail? 

Dylan is angry with us because we are not willing to post bail.  The judge said that he would require Dylan to live at home if he were out on bond, but if Dylan keeps the same circle of friends, as well as his adventurous spirit and lifestyle, it would put significant strain on our family.  We know that following our rules just isn’t part of Dylan’s current playbook.  We believe that he would skip bail to avoid doing prison time (he ran away from juvenile placements twice), leaving us stuck with a huge bill. 

Did we hire a lawyer?

After much deliberation, and talking with many people in our extended support group, we decided to hire a lawyer.  The charges against Dylan are serious felonies.  A public defender would probably do just fine, but we feel more comfortable with a private lawyer of our own choice, who will keep our family’s best interests in mind.  We know that there will be consequences for Dylan’s actions, but we’d like them to be as fair and reasonable as possible.

Are we sorry that Dylan is in jail?  Do we worry ourselves sick every night about his safety? 

No, instead we are grateful that he is safe, because at this time in his life he is a danger to himself and to others.  We know where he is.  He is safer in jail than he was on the streets.  Dylan is fun-loving and generous and intelligent, but he also thinks that he is street-smart and (of course) invincible.  He has no idea how na├»ve and impressionable he really is.  

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And the Countdown Begins . . .
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, September 22, 2015

As part of the annual Allegheny County Juvenile Probation awards ceremony scheduled for Thursday, October 8th, a new Parent(s) of the Year will be announced. Will it be a PSST parent this year?? 

The awards ceremony begins at 6pm, and lasts about 2 hours. It is held at the Family Court House, 550 Fifth Ave., Pittsburgh, PA (the Old Allegheny County Jail) on the second floor. In addition to various awards presentations, there will be a keynote speaker for the event. Speeches from the Parent(s) of the Year and the keynote speaker are always well worth the investment of time. Hope you can make it!

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Relapse is a Part of Recovery
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 09, 2015

If an addict relapses, does that make him/her a failure? 

Science says NO.  In fact, research shows that relapse rates for chronic diseases such as asthma, high blood pressure, and diabetes are very comparable to those for drug/alcohol addiction.  Just as patients with asthma and diabetes relapse, by failing to take prescribed medication or engaging in behaviors that are risky in light of their disease, so do drug addicts.

It is common for addicts to relapse, and it may happen multiple times.  Literature about addiction tells us that the best way for an addict to avoid relapse is to understand what his/her personal triggers are, then try to avoid or minimize those triggers, while reinforcing new recovery-focused behaviors.  Common triggers are emotional stresses (such as frustration or anxiety) and being around people/places/things that remind the addict of using.  If an addict has already relapsed, s/he may need help to accept what happened as a temporary setback, to view it as an opportunity to examine what triggers caused the relapse, and to put renewed emphasis on treatment (such as support group meetings or therapy). 

Click here for an article published in everydayhealth.com that gives excellent advice to family members on how to support the addict who has relapsed.  One of my favorite quotes from this article is Hold addicts accountable for their recovery from the relapse, just as it was important to hold them accountable for their addiction in the first place.

Click here for an article in Psychology Today entitled “Why Relapse isn’t a Sign of Failure” that discusses how drug-related cues can lead to relapse.  The author also explains how being in recovery creates new habits/triggers for recovery, and how Over time the addict subconsciously dissociates the cue from the past reward of using and associates it with the new reward of sobriety.

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YES, We are Meeting on Sept 5th !!
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Give your weekend a powerful start!  We will be OPEN for our regular PSST meeting in Wilkinsburg on Saturday, Sept 5th from 9-11:30am.   There will still be plenty of "weekend" left to enjoy with family & friends . . .

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Truths about Addiction
Posted by:Jenn--Saturday, August 22, 2015

Click here for an insightful blog posting about one family’s experience with their son’s heroin addiction, titled “7 Truths About My Addict That Took 5 Years To Learn”.  Although the family clearly went through many years of heartbreak, the good news is that their son has been clean and sober for the past 5 years!

Below is a synopsis of the father’s “seven truths”, but I highly recommend that you read the blog posting to get the full effect of his insights.   

Parents Are Enablers
I Cannot Fix This
My Addict Is A Liar
My Addict Is A Criminal
Others Don’t Want Them Around
Life Will Not Be The Same
Homelessness May Be The Path He Chooses

A sample from the author's commentary:
I once wrote a letter to my son about using drugs. I used the analogy of him standing on the railroad tracks and a train (drugs) is blasting down the tracks and blaring its horn but he hears nothing. I told him it was my job to knock him out of the way and take the hit, that’s what fathers do. I understand now, I was wrong. All that would do would leave me dead on the tracks and he would be standing on another set of tracks the next day.

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Apartment Hunting
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My 19-year-old son Dylan is looking for an apartment, and is hoping to share with a friend who is 20.  Both of them have juvenile records - neither has any credit history – and both have spotty work histories at minimum wage jobs.  Neither of them has a car, so they need to be near public transportation.  Dylan plans to get a job, but does not have one yet.  His friend just got a full-time job at a fast-food restaurant.  Both of them drink & get high (marijuana), but seem to be functional – they don’t live with me, thank goodness.

I suspect that many of you have had experience with your own children leasing apartments, and I’d love any tips from you.  I definitely don’t want to co-sign for a 12-month lease.   Do you have suggestions/warnings?  (And wouldn’t you just love to be their landlord?) 

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Addiction ~ a Family Disease
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Following are excerpts from Lisa Frederiksen’s interview with author Barbara Cofer Stoefen about her experiences with her daughter's drug use.  Click here for Lisa’s full interview with Barbara.  

Having a child in the throes of addiction is to experience profound grief.  . . .  We lose what they used to look like, smell like, we lose their health, we lose their companionship, we lose the pride we once had in them, we lose the very essence of them… because they truly have become someone else. Also, parents are often the target of a great amount of wrath coming from their addicted child, and it often feels we’ve lost their love too. But maybe most important of all is we lose our dreams for our child… our hope for their future. Because we doubt they have a future. And we lose all of these things over and over and over again. It’s like a wound that never heals and continues to split open.

So the family lives with daily grief, with daily loss. The family also lives with constant upset because of the havoc someone in the throes of addiction can wreak on others. There’s often middle-of-the-night phone calls, angry rants, demands, interrupted holidays, and of course the criminality that often goes hand and hand with addiction.
Oh, and there’s drama. Lots and lots of drama.   

Barbara’s recommendations for families of addicts:
1.   Know they didn’t cause it, can’t control it, can’t cure it. (Al-Anon slogan)
2.   Get support. We can’t go through this alone.
3.   Work on their own recovery. The person with the addiction isn’t the only one with problems. Everyone in the family needs to do their own part to heal.

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How to Talk with your Teen about Marijuana
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, July 30, 2015

Developed by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, the Marijuana Talk Kit helps parents have meaningful, productive conversations with their teens about marijuana use.  Click here to view the talk kit.  

Inside the Marijuana Talk Kit, you will find:
·      Facts about marijuana
·      Why weed is still risky for teens
·      Ways to talk with your teen about marijuana
·      What you should - and shouldn't say - when talking with your teen
·      How to respond to your teen’s questions and arguments
·      Resources to help

To be added to their email list, or to make a contribution to support similar community awareness aids, please visit the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids.

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K2 & your Teenager’s Heart
Posted by:Jenn--Friday, July 24, 2015

If synthetic marijuana is sold in stores, it can’t be all that dangerous, can it?

New research from Children’s National Health System Synthetic has shown that synthetic marijuana, known as K2 or Spice, decreases the flow of oxygen to the heart in teenagers and can cause serious heart complications. Decreased oxygen levels to the heart can have serious consequences in youth, from shortness of breath and chest pain to the pediatric equivalent of a heart attack.

Synthetic marijuana is unacceptably readily available for purchase by children and puts them at risk of serious health issues including cardiac damage,” says Dr. Berul, a nationally-recognized pediatric heart rhythm expert.

Click here for the full article.

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Miracles DO Happen
Posted by:Jenn--Sunday, July 12, 2015

Click here for an uplifting story posted recently in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette “Mission Mahi food truck serves up more than tacos”.   An alcoholic who also also became addicted to pain medication, his life spinning out of control, Jimmy Woods had a spiritual experience in rehab that gave him a clear focus on his own recovery.  In April, he opened a food truck business selling his signature fish tacos in the Pittsburgh, PA area.  In addition to serving tacos, Jimmy is also happy to share his recovery story.  His main goal is “to give others hope and a safe place to talk and not be judged.”

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No Enabling in this Family!
Posted by:Jenn--Thursday, July 09, 2015

Thanks to Lorraine for sharing the following story.  She has maintained clearly defined boundaries with her son, refusing to enable his (former) drug-related behavior, and continuing a healthy relationship by encouraging appropriate activities.

My son moved to Miami when he was first on his own. He was almost 21. Immediately before that, he was at First Step Half Way house. He was having some level of success with regard to drug use, in that he was functioning, but he was still using. He was not yet convinced to come completely clean. That sometimes takes awhile.

He was attending Allegheny Community college, transferred his credits to Miami Dade Community, and continued at Miami Dade when he arrived in Miami.

I did not give him any money for rent. I never co-signed anything. I did make the mistake of having a joint bank account with him since that saved him money in checking account charges, but after the issues with banking fees due to him using his debit card when he didn't have any money in his account, I removed my name off the account within 6 months.

When he finished Miami Dade within a year after arriving in Miami, he was accepted into University of Miami for a 4 year degree. At that point, I co-signed a school loan, because that was the only way he could continue to University of Miami. At this point, with his success at Miami Dade Community college, exercising a level of responsibility for himself in Miami, maintaining a full time job as a server in a restaurant, I felt that he deserved this chance to get a 4 year degree at University of Miami. However, even though he was functioning well, he was still using. I did co-sign that loan with some level of expectation that I would be paying off the loan myself. 

He still lives in the Miami area. He just turned 29 and has been completely clean for 3 years. No drugs, alcohol or tobacco. He works as a computer programmer and earns a fair salary. And he is in the process of paying back his school loans. 

And I still do not give him any money for anything. And I still would never co-sign anything. As he has his successes, I will buy him things, which is mainly related to his athletics. He participates in triathlons, which is an expensive sport. And I will indicate to him that the reason I buy him whatever it is I am buying him, is due to his success in staying clean. I make sure he understands the association between me buying him expensive things for his sport and him continuing to stay clean. 

When he first went to Miami, he had his issues with his drug use and we were at the point in our relationship that we could discuss such things. He once told me, "Mom, The only thing that works is having $100 in your pocket and having to choose between a bed to sleep in and drugs." I still keep reminding myself of this statement to this very day .... years later.

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PSST on July 4th? YES, of course!!
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, June 22, 2015

PSST on July 4th?  YES, of course!

Let's celebrate our INDEPENDENCE - from enabling, from being fearful, from being manipulated!  (See the helpful post below for more information on parents' rights . . .)   

Come to our Saturday, July 4th PSST meeting in Wilkinsburg for the perspective, friendship, insights, and shot-in-the-arm that we all need to maintain our sanity.

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Let's declare our independence. (Parent Rights originally posted 7-4-12) OR The Magnapssta.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, June 20, 2015


1. I have the right to be safe in my own home. No matter what I say that someone might not like, I have the right to not feel physically or verbally threatened in my own home.  I have the responsibility to see that others in my home feel safe.

2. I have a right to be treated with respect. I have the right not to be yelled at. If you need to tell me something, take care how you speak to me or I won't be standing around listening.  I have the responsibility to treat others with respect.

3. I have the right to take care of my own needs. My needs are at least as important as my other family members.  I have the responsibility within reason to help others in my family take care of their own needs.

4. I have a right to speak my mind. If some people are  going to find me judgmental, intolerant, or whatever, I will remind myself that they have a right to speak their minds too.

5. I have the right to take some time to consider the question before I give an answer. I have the right to "use my lifeline" and make a phone call or consult with someone I trust (my spouse perhaps) before I decide. If my teen HAS to know right now then the answer is NO.  When asking for something from family members I will remember that within reason they also have a right to take some time to consider before they answer.

6. I have the right to take a vacation from high-level drama. I recognize the highly addictive nature of drama and I realize that I don't have to "have" some everyday. Sometimes it's OK for me to just "pass" on the crisis-of-the day. I don't have to feel guilty just because I don't ALWAYS make someone else's problem my problem, even if it is my teenager.  Likewise, I will remember that just because something is a 911 for me it doesn't have to have emergency significance for others in my family.

7. I have a right to change. The way I coped with stressful things yesterday does not have to be the way I choose to handle stress today. Generally, people don't like to see other people change, unless of course it's the specific change that they prescribed; but that's their problem not mine.  It is my responsibility to remember that others have the right to change also.

8.   I have the right to ask for help.   I have a right to attend as many PSST meetings (or other self-help meetings) as I choose. I know that I am always welcome to the support and education that I find at PSST. If anyone tells me that I am wasting my time or that it's time I stood up and became a real parent who didn't need any help to make these tough decisions, then it's time that I told those people to please mind their own business.

9. I have a right to choose my own boundaries. I don't have to keep secrets about drugs, alcohol, crime, or violations of probation, for my loved ones. If I am NOT COMFORTABLE with something, I can say that. That's reason enough for me to not do it or not to permit my teenager to do it.  Likewise, I will allow others within reason to also make the claim that they are NOT COMFORTABLE with something although of course in areas of me holding my teen accountable it is not necessary that my teen feels comfortable with all my actions.

10. I have the right to change my mind. It's a very basic right that is afforded to everyone. Yes, I know it can cause problems and some people will accuse me of being a liar. I know that if I "promise" something then I should try to follow through with that promise; however, sometimes I get "new information" and then I have to reconsider. Also, sometimes I make mistakes and I have to fix them.  I have the responsibility to not change my mind in a sneaky, capricious or arbitrary way but to use new information to change my mind in as orderly and as informed manner as possible.

11. I have a right to establish rules in my house. Within the limits of what's effective and what's reasonable, I can take steps to enforce my rules. I've learned that if I have a rule that I'm either unwilling or unable to enforce, then it's better if I don't have that rule.  I have the responsibility to be consistent when I apply rules.

12. I have a right to disagree with professionals involved with my teenager's case. Just because a professional is considered an "expert" doesn't mean he is right. I'm an expert too: expert on my own teenager.  However, I have the responsibility to weigh carefully any expert opinion that I am afforded.  I recognize that I need to struggle to be open minded and that I am not always in the best "seat" to see things objectively. IF i still disagree with the approach that a professional is taking with my child's case then I my understand that first responsibility is to discuss this with my trusted peer group. If I still disagree my next responsibility is to discuss with the professionals involved. If I still have a problem then I must inquire as to how a grievance or protest or if another avenue is offered to object, then I will follow various alternatives that may include supervisors, administrators, or judges until that time that I am more comfortable with the situation.

13. I have a right to not enable my teenager. No matter what my family may think, if I think helping is hurting then I don't have to do it.  I'm not giving up when I stop enabling.  I am attempting to address my role in the problem.

14. I have a right to be the parent and know that I don't really have the right to be my teenager's friend. Later, when I don't have to be the one in charge because my teenager has grown into a responsible adult, we can be friends. Until then, I'll just be the parent.  Especially, if my teen is exhibiting out-of-control behavior I accept that I have the responsibility to not become friends because this limits my ability to parent effectively.  It is my responsibility to be the parent first, and the friend second.

15. I have a right to pursue happiness, which may include having interests and hobbies that I feel passionate about, a career or job that I am proud of, and/or friends that I care about. I have a right to be more than just a parent; even if my teenager is in placement or inpatient treatment, life for me goes on.  I have the responsibility to not become so obsessed by my teens problems that I forfeit my own happiness.

16. I have a right to be as healthy as I can be and to let my teenager(s) watch me do it. That's my gift to my family. It's my right to give this gift and whether or not they seem to appreciate it at the time doesn't matter.  Eventually, teenagers imitate adults and therefore it is both my right and my responsibility to pursue a healthy lifestyle.

I know that some of these over-lap. Perhaps from time to time I will tweak this list. Please add the one's that I missed. Please comment on which one's you feel are most important in the comments section. These are rights that I've heard parents speak about at meetings.

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY TO ALL PSST PARENTS EVERYWHERE both meeting goers and blog-readers! Hoping that the only fireworks you have to deal with on the 4th are the ones they shoot off in the sky!

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An Invitation to a White House Webinar (for Parents)
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) has scheduled a webinar for parents who are concerned about current overdose deaths and opioid misuse.  If you are interested in participating, you must register for the webinar by June 26 (click on the link in the invitation below).  The webinar will be held on July 1, 2015 at 3pm EST.

Below is the invitation to the webinar from Michael Botticelli, ONDCP’s director, also informally known as the drug czar. Mr. Botticelli is the first person in substance-abuse (alcohol) recovery to hold the position.

The ONDCP advises the President on drug-control issues, coordinates drug-control activities and related funding across the Federal government, and produces the annual National Drug Control Strategy, which outlines Administration efforts to reduce illicit drug use, manufacturing and trafficking, drug-related crime and violence, and drug-related health consequences.


I would like to cordially invite you to join me for a webinar conversation. This event is designed to be an opportunity for ONDCP to share their recent efforts to reduce drug overdose deaths and opioid misuse, and to learn from parents like you how the Administration can assist with your work to keep our children safe.

The meeting will take place virtually on July 1, 2015 at 3:00 pm EST.

Please register for this event here  by June 26.  You will be able to share questions when you register, and I will also respond to live questions during our webinar. Details on how to access the webinar will only be sent to parties who register. Questions that are submitted for the postponed webinar have been received and do not need to be posted again.

I encourage you to share this invitation with other parents whose lives have been impacted by a child with a substance use disorder. This conversation is limited to the parents and family members. I hope you can join me at this webinar to discuss how we can work together to make America healthier and safer for all. 

Thank you,
Michael Botticelli,
Director, White House Office of National Drug Control Policy

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“Divorcing” my Daughter (a heroin addict) – written by Elizabeth
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, June 08, 2015

My daughter Gwen is a heroin addict, who was introduced to drugs by her father (my ex-husband) when she was only 12 years old and in his custody.  Shocking, isn’t it?  I can hardly believe it myself.  I have struggled mightily for years (with the help of the court system, probation, and professional counseling services) to get her into drug treatment programs, only to see her relapse yet again.  I am amazed that she is still alive at age 21.  Gwen is still active in her addiction, with no visible signs of wanting to seek treatment.  Her father continues to be her biggest enabler.  It breaks my heart.

A few months ago, with the help of professional counselors, I realized that I needed to “divorce” my daughter.  Her continued downward spiral was sapping all of my energy, and affecting my own health.  I needed to discontinue contact with her, and stop my obsessive worrying about her.
I wrote the following letter and delivered it to her in-person on Valentine’s Day, along with a silver locket containing two photos, one of her and one of me.  The picture of Gwen was taken during one of those rare times when she was “clean”.  We look so much alike in those photos!  Along with the letter and locket, I gave Gwen a hug, and asked her to call me when she was ready to live a life in recovery.

Making the decision to divorce my daughter was the most painful thing I’ve ever done, but I know that it was the best thing that I could do, both for her and for me.


This is the hardest thing I have ever done in all my life.  You see, I love you so very much, and the addicted life you are living is consuming me. All I can think about is you, and what you are doing to buy the drugs you need to feed your addiction.  It torments me to realize how your addiction is destroying your chances for a healthy future.  It keeps me up all night worrying about what the drugs are doing to you.

You are one of my life’s greatest joys.  But until you are ready to live a life in recovery, I need to take care of myself.  I can no longer watch you be destroyed by this monster of addiction, and I cannot be part of your addicted life.  I have finally realized that my love for you is not enough to conquer your addiction.  As an adult, you can (and should) make all of your own decisions.  And I get it – you are just not ready to live a clean lifestyle.  I know that anything that I say or do cannot change that.

In my dreams, I envision you as a successful, healthy, and clean young woman.  I know you have the knowledge and power to overcome this addiction.  When you are ready for recovery, call me.  Then I will embrace you, and support you in every way that a loving mother can.

Never forget that you are part of me – my beautiful daughter, and my greatest gift from God.  I hand you over to Him now, until we are together again.

                            Your Loving Mother


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Driving while High/Stoned/Drunk
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, May 25, 2015

What if your child is regularly high, stoned, or drunk - do you let him/her drive your car?  What if s/he needs to drive to get to work?  What if the car technically belongs to him/her?

Click here for a blog posting from a parent who believes in setting firm boundaries, and has found a solution to these problems that works for him.

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A Dose of Reality (aka The Two-Headed Beast) - written by Sally
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Warning: Your Child’s Addiction May Be Fatal       
FATAL means he/she could die and you could live the rest of your life dealing with that fact. This warning comes to you from a parent who knows and simply wants you to understand how serious drug addiction is.


It has been almost three years now since we got that horrific phone call and learned that Cisco had died.

Life goes on. Our family is doing well and even prospering. Frodo and Fiona have two beautiful daughters!  We eat, we sleep, we travel. We are both working full-time, and I still spend my free time with knitting needles clicking away. Some days are better than others.

Today my heart is heavy. Just as Cisco had triggers that instigated his drug use, we have triggers that make us grieve. It might be the photos of Cisco that I discovered recently on a flash drive or maybe it’s because his 23rd birthday is coming up soon. Whatever the reason, sometimes the gap that his death left on our hearts becomes unbearably large.

Yoga helps me find peace. My faith and prayers bring me hope. Friends and family sustain me. However, the thing that keeps me going is the hate that I have for drug addiction.

I think of addiction as an evil, two-headed beast with two brains that keeps outsmarting itself.  I firmly stand square-shouldered facing this monstrosity, I look into its red, piercing eyes and I say to it:

“Cisco convinced some of his friends to stay clear of you, you vile and pestilent creature. However, you were able to get a stronghold on Cisco, even though he fought you off most gallantly. For Cisco’s sake I will not let you ruin me. I will live well and survive. I will tell as many people as I can about your evil ways. I will do my best to take you down.”

I take my eyes off this creature now. I slowly and purposefully walk away.

This evil thing called addiction can be defeated. 

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