Quote of the Week

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

An Iron-Clad Home Contract
Posted by:Jenn--Tuesday, January 22, 2013

For those of you who are writing a home contract for your teen (or young adult), here's a sample written by Jessica and Roger, two PSST parents who have had LOTS of experience writing such contracts.

HOME CONTRACT FOR (name of Subject)

Begins:(date) Ends: (date) When ______________will vacate the premises at (address) ______________________________ to find a different place to live.

You have had 18 years to learn how to make it on your own. Now it is time to put it into practice. As your parents, we are attempting to eliminate the atmosphere that comes along with using, from entering our home. We see that you are trying, but your kind of trying just does not make thecut. There may be a place for you "to shine" in a way that you cannot do here.

We appreciate your honesty and consistency in telling us exactly where you are in your addiction.


1. There will be a zero tolerance for violating any of the following Provisions that you must follow in order to fulfill this contract. If any of these rules are broken, you must immediately seek a new place to live and vacate the premises within 24 hours. Once you are out, you are out.

2. There will be no substance abuse, or being under the influence of any chemical unless it is medically prescribed.

3. There will be no stealing.

4. There will be no borrowing without consent of the owner.

5. You must comply with all alcohol and drug screens as requested by your parents. Refusal to do so will be interpreted as a positive test result; and you will be asked to leave the premises (as in provision 1).

6. There will be no lying with regard to any provision in this contract. Be prepared to answer all questions truthfully. If we cannot feel comfortable with you in our interactions, you will be asked to leave (as in provision 1).

7. Always let us know where you plan to be when you are out of the house.

8. You must always answer you cell phone when we call you.

9. Curfew will be as per your Conditions of Supervision:
Sunday - Thursday: 10 PM
Friday, Saturday: 11 PM

No overnights ever. Adjustments will be considered for your work schedule only. These times will be consistently reviewed, and may be considered for adjustment after each 30 day period throughout the term of the contract. There will be no grace period to account for any excuses to break curfew. Plan activities accordingly; for any violations refer to Provision 1.

10. Take your laundry down to the basement laundry area every Tuesday morning before 9 AM.

11. You must help with chores around the house as requested… i.e. taking out trash, cleaning your bedroom, cleaning bathrooms, etc.

12. There will be no insulting, abusive behaviors or breaking things.

13. Re: PEOPLE, PLACES and THINGS… We do not want you to withdraw from the world. We are not a cult. You need to find different people to "hang out" with, find different places at which to "hang", and find different things to do during your leisure times.

14. Avoid all "using" friends, and those that are known to use illegal substances or commit crimes (i.e. underage drinking). This means the entire __________________________ student body with the obvious exceptions of your siblings and any of their friends that may be in our home.

15. You will not have the use of Facebook until you move out.

16. You will not have the use of X-Box Live until you move out.

17. You must avoid old "using" places:
* Woods.
* Parks - in _________________ and ___________________.
* Elementary Schools and school properties.
* Middle Schools and school properties.
* High Schools and school properties.
* Any secluded areas.

18. You must have a designated activity when you go out. "Chilling", "Joy Riding", "Hiking", "Camping", and "Sitting in Secluded Areas" are not acceptable nor allowed.

19. The onus is on you, (name)___________. There is no debating any of the provisions of this contract. You must sign as is and make no further comments.

20. You must continue with Shores D&A Therapy as per Probation.

We are not sure how you can stay clean on your own. We have not known of anyone who has done this without support, to help fill in gaps. As we have come to learn and live. "Abstinence without change equals relapse".

21. We reserve the right to modify, add, delete any provision of this contract at any time.

22. We reserve the right to require that you vacate the premises at any time prior to (date).

JOB AND SCHOOL: Goals and Conditions

1) At this time, with your current course schedule, you must find legitimate employment where ever you can to total 20 to 24 hours/week. For each week that you are unemployed or under employed, a set of home responsibilities and chores (without pay) will be appropriately assigned to coincide with the required hours. With refusal or resistance to performing any assigned home responsibilities or chores well, you will be asked to leave the premises (as in provision 1).


3) If you are not enrolled in classes at CCAC, under the circumstances, you must maintain the equivalent of full-time employment (40+ hours/wk) and additional part-time employment (up to 20 hours/wk). (Your reward will be your freedom with some measure of financial security when this contract is terminated.)

4) For the coming summer term at CCAC, you will verify your schedule with parents.

5) Based on a review of your summer term course load, you will be required to continue working significant hours as in condition 1 above.

6) If you elect to drop your current course load or to not take classes for the summer term, see condition 2 above.

7) Free-Loading is unacceptable. Now is not the time to "…take a year off to have fun…". You must be applying yourself in a significant capacity toward furthering your education, be it job-training, or working. You will have plenty of time for fun when you are successfully on your own. You can then plan your education, work days and evenings, leisure times and vacation times wisely.


1. You will only drive a vehicle with your parents' permission and will turn over your PA DL at your parents' request.

2. You will share in the expenses of Auto Insurance ($90/mo), vehicle maintenance and fuel and repairs based on use and student status. See the Money Management section for more details.

3. You must keep a daily mileage log…starting and ending mileage must be verified by parents (LJC or BJC initialed).

4. You will not ride in vehicles with those that are on your no contact list, and will not accept a ride with anyone thought to be impaired.

5. Any event that even raises a suspicion with regard to behaviors while privileged with use of a vehicle will result in the immediate loss of that privilege and other sanctions as deemed necessary.


• To develop the discipline to save on your own.
• To get in the habit of saving.
• To understand the reasons/need to save.
• To understand your financial needs and develop a savings plan to meet them.

Use this time living at home as a springboard to a great start for when you live independently. Make saving automatic.

1. Your parents will assist with money management as deemed necessary.

2. Specifically, while living at home under this contract, you must save 90 - 100% of your take-home pay. This is not negotiable. This is your money, but this savings account will not be accessible to you at this time.

3. You will bring home your paycheck rather than take it to the bank. If your employer offers or requires direct deposit, the direct deposit arrangements must have parental approval. You must provide your paystub or a copy for verification.

4. Likewise, for any cash you receive from any other sources, you must save 90-100%. Again, this remains your money.

5. All of your funds will be made accessible to you when you are on your own; either at the completion of this contract or at any time prior to the end of the contract when you vacate the premises.

6. All purchases must be made with the debit card for your FCU checking and savings accounts. You are expected to be responsible with its use.

7. You must provide additional proof (original receipts) of all expenditures. Ask for a receipt if one is not given.

8. You will carry no cash.

9. You must be transparent to us with the moneys that you earn and receive, and your intentions to spend or save money.

10. Spending toward extra-curricular activities, classes, clothing, entertainment, eating out, games, etc. or toward major purchases (car, home furnishings, etc.) must have parental approval.

11. Parents will have access to your bank accounts for verification of compliance.

12. You are responsible to reconcile/balance your online bank accounts weekly.

13. If there is any tampering or unauthorized (by your parents) withdrawal of funds from your savings during the term of this contract, you must immediately seek a new place to live and vacate the premises within 24 hours.

We hope you take the best advantage of your time in our home.

As promised, if you can abide by this contract through (date), we will transfer the title of the Buick to you prior to you moving out.

In the meantime, there will be no discussion of prior relapses. If you have questions about independent living, ask (therapist).

(name of subject)  Date

(parent) Date

(parent) Date

Witness Date

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I cannot control labor, delivery, or Lenny
Posted by:Brigitte--Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Possibility of Giving Birth during Inconvenient AA Meeting, One of The Best Problems

The following is a true account of a recent day in the life of Roxie, and her son, Lenny.

After our regularly scheduled counseling session at Lenny’s halfway house, our family decided to change his home pass from a Saturday to a Sunday.

I was delighted that Lenny agreed to go to church with us. I deliberately kept it from the congregation so Lenny could be lavished with extra hugs.

On that particular Sunday, my older son called at 8:00 a.m. to tell me that his wife’s water broke and she was in labor at the hospital. I woke up the family to give them the great news. “We have to miss church today,” I exclaimed, “for the baby is on the way!”

Consequently, there would be no huge fanfare for Lenny at church, with kisses from the older women and a special prayer from the Pastor.

While getting ready and envisioning the entire day in my mind, Lenny asked, “Are we going to an NA or AA meeting before or after the hospital?”

I thought I misunderstood his question. I felt my eyebrows touch each other in the middle of my face. Is he thinking about going to a meeting when my first grandson is about to be born?

I rechecked my mental faculties and realized I was experiencing an error in judgment and thinking. That was so very selfish of me. My sobriety goal for Lenny was for him to yearn to attend a meeting, but not today!

I swallowed hard and smiled as I said, “Let’s go to the hospital first, if you don’t mind.” The latter part of the statement was politeness, not consideration. I slowly exhaled. Lenny eased my worry of missing the birth by saying that he knew of a meeting that occurred all day, every hour on the hour.

We arrived at the hospital and my daughter-in-law was not quite ready to deliver. After 1.5 hours of waiting, I suggested that Lenny and I go to an AA-NA meeting and come back. He agreed.

I was delighted that my plan was coming together:

1. hospital;

2. NA-AA meeting;

3. hospital aka grandma.

We left the hospital during my daughter-in-law’s controlled breathing at 11:00 a.m., and arrived at the meeting facility at 11:30 a.m.

Several dudes were outside smoking cigarettes when Lenny and I arrived. I parked the car and anxiously walked over to a group of them with Lenny in tow. I told them I was dropping off my son for a meeting. “Ya’ll are super early,” said the young man who looked 16. “The meetin’ ain’t startin’ til’ 1 o’clock.”

Did I hear him right? That is one-and-a-half hours from now. I cannot deal with this ‘inconvenient meeting’. I’m going to be a grandma any minute! “I thought these meetings were all day,” I sternly stated. “No, the next one is at one,” he replied.

Before resorting to offering them money, I pleadingly asked, “Can you take my son inside and have a non-scheduled one hour meeting with him? Kinda' like a real meeting but it would only be between ya’ll four. We really can’t wait until one o’clock...Please?”

“Awww shucks, mam. We’ll do that for you and straighten him out,” said the older stranger. He looked at Lenny and stated, “Don’t disrespect your moms...give her a hug before we take you inside.” Excitedly, I hugged the stranger first and then my son. I left Lenny like a swaddled baby on cold church steps.

While speeding back to the hospital, my GPS indicated that I would not be able to pick up Lenny in an hour after encouraging my daughter-in-law to push. What had I just done?

I left my son with sober strangers who seemed a tad rough around the edges. Did I abandon my son for a grandson? Worse yet, I felt like I broke a cardinal rule on what constitutes an AA-NA meeting by coercing them to have a mini-meeting for my Lenny. I nervously pulled off the road and called Lenny’s Probation Officer, for fear of being arrested for aiding and abetting.

I do not know if Sunday morning calls from parents are the norm for him, but the Probation Officer did not seem surprised that I called. After asking if dropping off Lenny with strangers and convincing them to hold a meeting according to my time was legal, he said, “Hmm, I don’t think this has ever happened before.” I looked in the rear-view mirror; coast still clear.

After a pause that seemed like hours, he stated, “Under the circumstances, I think it is okay. If two or more addicts are together in discussion, it can be considered a meeting. When you speak with Lenny’s counselor next week, just make sure you mention what happened. Counselors can sometimes be sticklers about meetings.” After feeling a lot less guilty, I drove back to pick up Lenny, and arrived at the hospital 28 minutes before becoming a grandma.

The personal lessons I learned:

1. Two or more alcoholics/addicts in a discussion can constitute a meeting.

2. I cannot control labor, delivery, or Lenny.

3. If Lenny puts going to a meeting as top priority, no matter what, then I can’t afford to send him a message that I think something else is more important. My grandson has a brand new chance at life; Lenny’s daily decisions may shorten his own. Both are life and death.

4. If I feel afraid and need a second opinion, I can reach out to those who work with and love our kids. I think any parent will feel at ease talking with those who are there to not hinder our families, but to help.

For such a long time I hoped that Lenny would “get it” that 12-step recovery is going to be a big part of his success. I’ve wanted him to embrace it. He resisted.

Now that I see that what I had hoped for seems to be happening, it has caught me off guard. “Be careful what you ask for…” and we all know the rest of that saying.

In this instance I was left feeling grateful about my new grandson and my son.

Both have a new lease on life. Looking back, I’d say that was one of the best problems I could have!

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The Molly Craze - submitted by Lindy Lou
Posted by:Jenn--Wednesday, January 09, 2013

On my Facebook feed, someone posted a photo of white powder with information about the Molly craze and its dangers. The well-meaning post was meant to educate parents about the popularity of a 'new' drug that is being sung about by many popular musicians that young folk listen to. I thought it was great to get a little D&A education via social networking, but there are quite a few hoaxes circulating out there, so I was initially skeptical. As it turns out, the Facebook post was not a hoax, but it also did not provide accurate information on the drug known as Molly. The post claimed Molly was crack, which is not correct. Molly is a pure form of ecstasy that comes in powder form. Though technically not a 'new' drug, its rapid increase in popularity is recent. Apparently young folk consider it to have minimal side effects, as reported by CNN in the following article

I asked my college-age son Drew if Molly was something he was encountering within his networks. He verified that it was pretty popular and was being taken as capsules. These probably are gel caps filled with the powder. My son assured me that he personally didn't see the point of taking hallucinogenic drugs that mess up your brain. What a perfect opportunity to agree with him and to let him know that from what I was reading about Molly, it would be very, very wise to stay away from it. Messing with brain chemistry has permanent side effects and this, like other synthetic drugs, is of questionable manufacture, quality, and purity.

I can only hope that the resolve he expressed this evening sticks with him when he finds himself in party and concert settings.

Lindy Lou


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Synthetic THC pills - submitted by Jessica
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, January 07, 2013

I wanted to share some new information that I discovered as a result of Herman's latest relapse.  Just when we thought that spice was the only synthetic cannaboid out there, I have come to find out that there is a synthetic THC pill. It is called Marinol and is typically prescribed for nausea and loss of appetite associated with weight loss in patients receiving cancer treatment.  However, it made its way into Herman's drug using formulary, and it could easily be abused by someone you love as well.

What is particularly alarming is that while the average THC potency of domestic marijuana now averages about 10%, these pills are 100% potency. Comments by users say that "the stuff gets you blasted for hours".  If you read the pharmaceutical information, you can overdose. This pill has many psychoactive as well as cardiovascular side effects.  Many (like Herman) foolishly think that since it is a synthetic THC, it will not show up on standard urine screens, but thankfully it does.

You can find more information at www.drugs.com. and search Marinol.

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IT’S THE FRIENDS, STUPID - written by Max
Posted by:Jenn--Monday, January 07, 2013

(Initially written by Max on 12/2/12)

About 2 weeks ago, I got a call telling me my 17 year old son David was picked up with his friend (who I will name Doofus) for smoking weed in an alley. They saw the cops coming and of course they ran. Later David found out that had he held still, the officer was just going to give him a trespassing citation; but because they ran, and had to be chased, they were charged with misdemeanor possession of weed and paraphernalia. Doofus went to big-boy jail as he is 18. David was just shackled to a chair after getting his prints and mug shot taken. He was pretty rattled, and realized that he had better shape up.
David immediately started to look for jobs, swore off weed, and started coming home directly after school. He even told us we could test him, because he knew he may be ending up in an outpatient drug program. We barred Doofus and another kid, Dumbo, from the house. We told our son, we know we can’t control you, but we can control our home. We talked about how he had too much time on his hands and that he needed to work, and only started smoking again because he was bored, which he agreed with. Mel and I could see how bad he felt, and realized, this was the best punishment, the natural consequences of getting caught, facing probation, etc.

Some of you veteran PSST folks may remember that Mel and I sent David out of state to 2 different schools, to keep him physically away from these situations – he was doing REALLY well, had matured, hadn’t smoked weed, was doing well in school, made better choices in friends, and was lovely to live with at home. Because of this, we allowed him to give a shot at our local high school, where his grades are good (for him) and he met a nice girl friend who we feel is a good influence. HOWEVER, he also met his new friends, Doofus and Dumbo. Doofus seemed like an ok kid; he was going to Community College, was polite and respectful in our home, and spent a lot of time with us. Dumbo, on the other hand, looked suspicious. Mel and I brought this to David’s attention. David's reply – “he doesn’t do stupid stuff when he is with me”.

Last night, we got a call from the police . . . again. I thought it had to be a joke, David wouldn’t be THAT stupid twice in one month. But, he was with Doofus and Dumbo and another kid I had never heard of before, who I will name Gumby. It seems that Dumbo and Gumby were walking down the street followed by Doofus and David. A woman with a few bills hanging out of her pocket was walking in front. Dumbo and Gumby approached her, grabbed her money, and ran. David and Doofus didn’t know what to do and started to run out of obvious fear, but the police were on it immediately, hauling all 4 idiots into the station.
According to police reports, it appears that David had the misfortune of just hanging with these people. However, as Lloyd pointed out to me, “just being there” makes one guilty and therefore held responsible. I am relieved that David wasn’t an instigator or participant, because I really never saw him as a kid who would rob. Smoke weed in an alley, yes. Assault another person, never. But, while waiting for the police report, I wondered . . . maybe I didn’t know him after all, and we had a much bigger problem on our hands.

So, believe it or not, I am happy this morning after no sleep because, even though my son is in Shuman, and has 2 charges pending, he is under 18 and we have a bit of time to work with him. I am grateful this morning because Lloyd had the dubious honor of calling me from Shuman with the information, and took a bit of extra time to talk with me. I am blessed with so many of you from PSST who answered my email of last night so promptly, when I asked for Val’s contact information. And, I am thankful for my dear friend Daisy whom I called immediately. How many of us have friends that we can call to say “my kid is in Shuman” and have the other person empathize, counsel, and not judge? Only someone who is really PSST!!!
Thanks Everyone. Will keep you updated.

Max and Mel

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Surprise Folks I'm moving back home!
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, January 05, 2013

Click to see source for photo
(This role-play was shared a month or so ago on our PSST Yahoo group.)

Teen: Mom, I was thinking that instead of me moving into a 3/4 way house I decided that it would be better for me and for Dad and you if I just came home.

Mom: Really, you've surprised me.

Teen: I know!

Mom: Well let me hear more about that I [Mom is staying cool on the outside but inside the temp gauge is rising fast.]

Teen: I just worry about you and Dad and now that you are both getting older I want to help take care of you. I figured that if I went into a 3/4 way house you'd just worry about me too much, you know wondering what I'm doing and stuff.

Mom: Well, Son, I need to process this but tell me more about how this would work out if you moved home.

[Then after ten minutes of Teen telling how much he wants to be there to support his mother and all the big things he was going to do to help them out, which pretty much boiled down to him driving places for them, almost like he's their new delivery boy and Mom can see that much of this surrounds him getting his license and being able to drive at will.]

Mom: You're right about a lot of stuff Son.

Teen: I am?

Mom: Yes, you are right that I worry about you. You are right that I would prefer if possible to have you move back home. Your father and I miss you. And I'll admit that It would be so nice and it's so sweet of you
really to offer to do all that nasty driving the car around for us...

Teen: [Interrupting] So, I can then?

Mom: Well, as I said I'm just starting to process this, I need some time on this one, don't I?

Teen: Well when!?

Mom: Right, you'd like a time frame on that and that is a pretty big topic that you brought up and you'd like to know when we can deal with it and that's a reasonable question. I think at our next family therapy session we could talk about it, what do you say?

Teen: I think you don't want me at home cause if you did you would have already said I can come home. If you don't want me home just don't come visit me anymore or anything.

Mom: [Mom thinks about it quickly and decides to skip the blackmail part for now but she knows that it's an important item down the road, but on the other hand, it's old hat by now with this teen.  Instead she decides to follow Best Conversational Practices and talk about what she needs instead). You're right Son, I'm hesitant, I'm afraid, you see I need my sanity at home. It's very important to me and now that I've gotten a wee bit it back since you've been gone and sue me but I'm reluctant to give it up. I need us to sit down and talk talk talk about this and frankly, Son, I'm concerned that you don't want to talk, you just want to tell us what you decided. And if you don't like the answer that you get you just walk away from the table.

Teen: Forget it. I don't want to move back home now anyway. I was just saying that to see if you wanted me home and I see that you don't.

Mom: Ouch Son, that hurts. Was I that obvious or do you just know me too well?

Teen: I know you pretty well.

Mom: Yes I think you and I know each other better than anyone else knows us.  [Mom takes the most contentious part of the conversation and "joins" with her Son.  They are both members of the elite club called "We know each other better than anyone else."  You have to feel special to be in this club!]

Teen: That's why i'm not surprised.

Mom: Right, you knew that I would insist that we talk about this in family counseling right?

Teen: Yup.

Mom: Well you do indeed know me well. Can i ask you a question Son?  (assuming he hasn't stormed out by now) What did your sponsor say when you talked about moving back home?

Teen: I didn't talk to him about it.

Mom: Oh, well I know he's hard to reach sometimes, what did your "we" of the program say when you shared about it in a meeting that you wanted to come home?

Teen: I didn't share that cause I knew you didn't want me and it wouldn't happen.

Mom: So, you were just testing me?

Teen: I guess so.

Mom: Hm, I'm sorry I feel like I failed the test, did I?

Teen: Sort of yeah.

Mom: So to pass the test I just had to say 'Yeah we want you home tomorrow lets' pack your bags tonight?'

Teen: Would have been nice!

Mom: I bet that would have sounded good, huh?

Teen: Yep, but I'll never hear that will I?

Mom: Maybe not like that fast no I don't think so, but tell me what your therapist said when you talked to her about this huge change of plans.

Teen: I talked to you first about it.

Mom: Oh ok. [pause, now Mom is considering pointing out how manipulative his whole approach has been, to try to catch her off guard and pressure her for an answer before he even ran it past anyone else and she almost starts in with something like "you need to talk to your probation officer, your therapist, your sponsor, and your higher power before you pressure me with this stuff" but she decides that just for today, she'll try to catch more bears with honey.]

You know what?

Teen: What?

Mom: I think it's sweet that you talked to me first. I feel kinda special. I'm sorry I failed your test honey. I'ts complicated.  [These are concessions that cost Mom nothing to make.  Is Mom lying?  Let's hope not.  For one thing, Mom is special so there is nothing wrong with feeling that way.  Mom did fail his test although of course she would and by pointing this out, she helps her teen realize that he was playing some sort of game by testing her.  And life is complicated.  It's not so much whether these relationship building concessions  are lies, rather it is about whether Mom can challenge herself to look for positives in places where she isn't used to finding them.]

Note: (It's complicated is one of the favorite phrases of young people, you see it all over face book all the time especially when describing relationships and it's one of the things that teenagers get: life is complicated. In fact, when parents suggest that things aren't really all that complicated, then teens get offended, what? of course my life is complicated- so it sort of becomes a power phrase for parents to embrace, not as a door closer but as a careful way to open certain doors.)

Teen: I know. But you talked to me about it with me anyway.

Mom: You know I have kind of a goofy dream. Do you remember the dream speech that Martin Luther king gave?

Teen: Yeah, [smiles] we had to learn it in school but I only remember the first part.

Mom: Yeah I can't' remember that whole thing either but can I share mine with you?

Teen: I guess.

Mom: Well I have a dream that you do come home but that's its way different than it was before. For one thing you do try to help take care of your father and I. You seemed to want to follow the rules. You
seem to be concerned that I might worry and you try to help ease my anxiety by checking in with me all the time. And you don't mind giving urine samples when I want to screen you and I guess one of the biggest things that I dream of is that when you ask us for something and we so 'no I don't think so', that you are very adult in the way that you accept no. You don't manipulate or push us or anything.

Teen: Ok, can I go now this is boring?

Mom: Sure honey, I just thought I'd share my dream with you. Thanks for listening even though it WAS boring (laughing). Sorry about that test thing [smiles].

Teen: You didn't really fail. Not really- maybe you surprised me a little too.

Mom: I did?

Teen: Yeah, but lets' not talk about it now, cause this went on too long already and I don't want to make too much work for Lloyd who has to write all this down.

Mom: What a thoughtful young man you are!  You're even looking out for Lloyd now!    :-)

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

Thanks, Daisy, for sharing this!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Teen: But that's not fair.

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

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

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

Teen: What do you mean?

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

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

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

Teen: Like what?

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

Teen: I guess so.

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

Teen: Can I call her?

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

Teen: This is stupid.

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

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

Mom: I agree.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Bless and Merry Christmas!

Justin Innocent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Rocky Road with Bam by Wilma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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