Parents: Doing the Best They Can with What They Have

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By Sherry Gaugler-Stewart, Director of Family and Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat.

Thank you, Sherry, for being part of #fsts16. We are pleased to have you elaborate on many of the points from the panel discussion that took place at From Statistics to Solutions: Addressing the Underlying Issues of Youth Substance Use. MWM

When parents arrive at our Family Program, they are typically experiencing a variety of different emotions.  Some of them arrive feeling desperate, as they are tremendously fearful for the well-being of their child, and are out of ideas about what to do.  Some of them arrive confused, as it makes no sense that they have raised this beautiful child with their best efforts and values, and, yet, the disease of addiction is still present.  Some of them arrive angry, because it’s really frustrating to deal with the behaviors that happen when someone is actively using.  And, some of them are just exhausted, because standing guard over your child’s life is all-consuming.

To say it’s not easy to be a parent of a child who struggles with alcoholism or addiction is an extreme understatement.  When the dreams and aspirations for the person you love are side-tracked by addiction, what is left behind is the stuff most parental nightmares are made of.

Our society doesn’t help with these nightmares.  In fact, someone outside of the situation who hasn’t had firsthand experience with alcoholism or addiction may easily make judgements.  It’s a common belief that if a child is “good” or “bad” it has to do with how they have been parented.  Most people look at alcoholism and addiction as a moral failing, rather than a disease or disorder.  There is much stigma placed on families who are impacted by addiction, even though alcoholism was first declared a disease by the American Medical Association in 1956, and, addiction has been placed in this category, as well.  This information alone doesn’t seem to stop the judgements, or stop a parent from taking their child’s addiction personally.

I know it was something my husband took personally.  Even though he understood the disease of addiction better than most because he is in long-term recovery himself, understanding what to do as two out of three of his children struggled with their own addictions, and the consequences that surrounded them, escaped him.  I took it personally, as well, thinking that if I had a different role in their lives, or maybe if his prior marriage was still intact, something would be different for these two.

Despite the stories we create in our heads about all of this, the facts remain the same.

Good parenting doesn’t stop addiction.  There is no amount of loving someone that can change their physiology or propensity for alcoholism or addiction.  Bad parenting doesn’t create addiction. 

There are many who have survived less than ideal childhoods who have grown up to live happy, productive lives without the cloud of addiction.

And, yet, most of us still want to blame something or someone for this issue.  I was recently involved in a conversation where a question was posed: What are some of the road blocks and challenges that hinder collaboration with working with youth struggling with addiction?  With so many obstacles that stand in the way, I was looking forward to the answers, so we could start addressing them!  I was surprised to hear that one of the people involved believed the major obstacle was parents.

As she explained, I understood her standpoint.  Sometimes parents, in their confusion around the situation, get caught up in denial.  They want to believe that their beloved child would know better.  They want to believe that addiction couldn’t possibly touch their family.  They want to believe that it’s just a phase.  They don’t want to live in the embarrassment and shame associated with alcoholism or addiction, and who can blame them, really?

But, sometimes we still blame.  It’s fairly common in the world today that when something goes “awry” we want answers and to know who is responsible.  If it’s a child, then the parent must be at fault.  Even those of us working in the addiction recovery field we hear the comments about the parents that are more of a problem than their child.  We may have even made those comments.

The truth of the situation is that parents are doing the best they can with the information that they have.  They are doing their very best.  They want the very best for their child.  The assumption should not be that they are to blame.  The assumption should always be that they are loving their child as much as they possibly can.

The question for those of us who work with these parents is: How do we help families from blaming themselves?

In my experience, the best place to start is creating a safe place for them to talk.  Isolation is a key symptom of addiction, and is present on both sides of the disease.  Parents who have a child struggling with addiction often isolate themselves trying to protect their child and their reputation, not realizing this is also blocking them from receiving help.  If a parent starts talking, they will share information on how we can best help them.  They’ll talk about their fears, their confusion, their hopes and their plans.  The best thing anyone can do is listen.

When we listen, we will hear when a parent is ready to learn more.  The next important thing we can do for a parent is help them to really understand addiction.  Education around chemical dependency, how it happens and what it looks like, can help to clear up some of the confusion families have.  Although families typically understand addiction on an intellectual basis, their emotions haven’t always caught up yet, and these emotions add to their underlying reactions.  In my experience, when families have the opportunity to really learn about addiction, and have the questions that they have answered, it helps them to navigate the situation better.

However, as stated earlier, education isn’t enough.  Although it’s extremely helpful, it doesn’t answer the question most parents want answered “So, now what do I do?”  How do I get my loved one into recovery?  How am I supposed to be as they navigate early recovery?  How am I supposed to show up if my loved one relapses?

Typically, parents with a child who is actively using have one major fear: their child will not stop using and won’t be able to find recovery. 

Often times that fear continues after a child is getting help, but it turns to fear that their child may not be able to maintain their recovery.  Although their child may be doing everything they had hoped that they would do, parents may still be having the same reactions as they did when their child was using.  It is imperative families find support for themselves, as well.

A study by Laudet, Morgen, and White, (The Role of Social Supports) states “Support, in particular, recovery-oriented support, is likely to be critical to alcohol and other drug users, especially early on…”  It would stand to reason that recovery-oriented support would be helpful for parents and families, as well.  In fact, John Kelly, Ph.D. and Director of the Recovery Research Institute, was recently quoted to have said “Social support is good, but recovery specific social support is more important.”,  which also can be interpreted that a parent’s love is good, but a parent’s love with the support of recovery is more important.

The greatest gift I’ve received is something that can be passed along to others: the gift of family recovery. 

Recovery is community.  It is the support of other people who know what it’s like to love someone who struggles with addiction.  Recovery offers ideas and resources based on the experience of others.  Recovery offers a common language to talk about addiction, and the communication skills to reconnect with each other.  Recovery offers opportunity for healing.  Recovery offers hope.  The same process that helps our children recover can help other family members, too.  Family recovery offers answers to the question, “So, now what do I do?”

When my husband’s son started his recovery journey from his meth use, we were cautiously optimistic.  He was doing better than we’d seen him do in recent years, but we weren’t sure it would last.  We understand that this disease is chronic and can be fatal.  Through recovery, we also knew that placing our fears on him would not be helpful.  We also knew that the time that he spent in a facility was just the beginning of the journey.  The real work would happen for him in his own recovery community.

Three years later, we get to see the gifts of recovery turn into a full blown miracle.  We’ve watched him walk through the highs and lows of early recovery.  We’ve watched him take ownership.  We’ve watched him make decisions, good and bad.  We’ve watched that he’s let us know what’s going on in his world.  He did it in his own time, with his own support around him.  And, we needed our support around us.

Parents don’t have to do it alone.  Talk to someone.  Learn more about addiction.  Find others who understand addiction who can support you in this process.  And, please, remember that everyone is doing the best that they can with what they have, including you.

About Sherry Gaugler-Stewart

Sherry Gaugler-Stewart is the Director of Family & Spiritual Recovery at The Retreat in Wayzata, Minnesota. She has worked with The Retreat’s Family Program since its inception. Sherry is a certified spiritual director and has been an active participant in Twelve-Step recovery since 1999.  In addition to her work at The Retreat, she has lead spiritual retreats and is a meditation teacher.  She is also involved in the Kids’ Programming at The Retreat, for children aged 7-12 years old who are growing up in families affected by chemical dependency.

Side note: The Retreat offers a generous scholarship program to help defray the cost of participation in its programs.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Sober at 17

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One of my former students at Metro State University was especially supportive and informative when we were worried sick about our son’s addiction – because she had firsthand insight. We became fast friends and later colleagues at work. Today, she’s our guest blogger sharing her experience with addiction, sobriety and recovery as a young adult. Please welcome Lisa Grimm! MWM

Six shots of Bacardi Limon, I threw up and fell in love all in the same night. I was 15.

And I would fall truly, madly, deeply in love with alcohol, marijuana, ecstasy and cocaine over the next two and a half years.

Up until this time my parents, sober alcoholics since before I was born, had said things like, “Don’t drink or do drugs. It won’t mix well with your body chemistry.” My body chemistry? Without further explanation that statement was awkward enough to keep me away, for a time. I was also acutely aware that most of my deceased lineage had died because of the bottle, which legit scared me.

My childhood was difficult for many reasons. Out of respect to my family I won’t air specific grievances. I will say that my parents were battling some significant issues. I was exposed to some very grown up things at a very young age (mental illness, anger management, financial struggles, legal proceedings of epic proportions, and the list goes on) and endured mental, emotional and physical abuse along the way.

My parents divorced when I was four. My dad remarried shortly after. I attended eight schools before high school making it difficult to cultivate meaningful and lasting relationships.

As an only child with emotionally unavailable parents (P.S. I love them so much), I spent a lot of time alone (and lonely) leaning on movies, my imagination and wandering the streets to help me process my surroundings and teach me about the workings of life and the world. While I knew something was deeply wrong, I accumulated survival tools wherever I could find them and carried on. I deflected the hard stuff and became a chameleon of sorts, blending into my surroundings.

When I took that first drink my surroundings expanded far and wide. I had a new group of friends and a full social calendar. It felt like anything was possible.

Those warnings from my parents still had a hold, so I declared almost immediately that I would just drink and never do drugs. Two months later I started smoking pot.

Experimentation continued and within a few years I was smoking pot several times a day had dabbed in hallucinogens which led to ecstasy and cocaine, and boy oh boy what a joy they were.

As Josey Orr says, “The typical progression for many drug addicts goes something like this: 1. Fun 2. Fun with problems 3. Just problems.” Well, the problems began almost immediately with a rapidly plummeting fun quotient. There are so many details I’d like to share with you, but this isn’t a book nor are there pictures so I’ll cut to the chase :).

On November 3, 2000 at the ripe age of 17 I experienced my last of a long list of consequences related to my alcohol and drug use.

I had become careless and sloppy, as evidenced by the sizable bag of pot hanging out of my brand new winter coat as I was leaving the house to go party that Friday night. My stepmom, tired of it all and one to always call the kettle, called me to the living room and along with my dad offered me three choices. I could:

 

  1. Go to the Bloomington Police Station and take a possession charge (she wasn’t kidding), OR
  2. Go to treatment, OR
  3. Go to 90 AA meetings in 90 days

 

I was living with them after being kicked out of my mom’s house for the last time. Despite my family banding together through group therapy and other means to confront my use and problems, by this time I had been arrested twice, kicked out of flight school at University of North Dakota (the day before my solo flight) due to one of those arrests, nearly kicked out of Cretin Derham-Hall High School for disciplinary issues and declining grades, and a slew of other damaging things to my body and mind, and others—namely my family.

As with most addicts, it’s a long and varied list of shittiness.

I knew deep down that I was killing myself. I knew that the young woman I had become was someone not only unrecognizable, but someone I didn’t want to be. But the gravity of the emptiness and pain I felt inside had become so pervasive sedation was the most effective option to deal. So… I chose 90 meetings in 90 days. Not only was it was a far better option than treatment (or spending some time in a cell, even if brief) it was the easiest to manipulate. “Sure” I thought. “I’ll go to these meetings and carry on with my routine and they’ll never know.”

Naturally, I got good and high and went to my first meeting on Sunday, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at Uptown House on Summit Ave. in St. Paul, Minn. I didn’t know these people, they weren’t trying to tell me I had a problem. They were simple sharing what it had been like for them, what happened and what it’s like now. They didn’t look like me or talk like me, but for the first time ever I related to this group of people in the most real and authentic way I knew existed. I saw myself in them and it gave me a lot of hope. It also scared the shit out of me.

After an evening of tears and getting honest with myself, I made the decision that I would go to 90 meetings in 90 days and do what was asked of me. If I didn’t like what I found there I would continue as I had been and write the whole thing off.

I got a Big Book, a sponsor, went to meetings regularly, worked the steps, and found a wonderful group of young sober people to hang with. I told my friends at school that I had to take care of some things for a while and if there were still there when I got back that would be great.

I said the serenity prayer from my car to the door of school every morning and periodically throughout the day, just to make it through.

I showed up at meetings early to set up and clean up. I participated in leadership roles in my home group meeting. I took meetings to women’s treatment centers and detox facilities. When I had thoroughly worked through the steps, I shared my experience, strength and hope with other women. My family supported me, but continued to enforce strong checks and balances until I built up trust.

I’ve been sober ever since. I was a senior in High School a few months shy of my 18th birthday.

My life is better than anything I could have imagined, and it continues to get better. Even the shitty moments in life are better because I have the tools to deal with all of it, like a grown up. I have accomplished so many things because of my recovery, but the most lovely and dearest to me is restored relationships with my family and the relationships and love recovery enables. There is no greater gift in this life than being able to have true intimacy and love with other humans. No amount of money, material, professional or personal accolades will fill your soul like this does, at least this is true for me.

I’m beyond grateful for the people in that room that night, my family for loving me through the good, bad and the ugly, the amazing community of sober pals I have and the friends I have that don’t treat me/act differently because of it.

Cheers to another day!

Bio:

Lisa Grimm (@lulugrimm) is a Minneapolis native who recently relocated to Austin, Texas, where she leads social media for Whole Foods Market. When she’s not working, she enjoys spending time with her husband and American Bulldog, snacking, traveling, watching movies and documentaries, and volunteering at Healing with Horses Ranch.

©2016 Our Young Addicts   All Rights Reserved.

Guest blog posts are welcome additions to the content on this website. Guest blog posts represent the views, opinions and experiences of the author and do not necessarily represent Our Young Addicts. Together, we provide parents and professionals with a variety of perspectives and information.

 

 

I never thought we’d face addiction.

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At a recent community event, I had the opportunity to speak with parents and professionals. My message: I never thought we’d face addiction.

Read highlights from the presentation, here.

http://pressnews.com/2016/01/28/i-never-thought-we-would-face-addiction/

Midwestern Mama

©2016 Our Young Addicts            All Rights Reserved

Guest Blog: Drug & Alcohol Treatment for Young Adults

This is the third of a three-part series by @DrewHorowitz, a recovery coach and interventionist who specializes in working with young adults and their families to work through addiction, treatment and recovery. Thank you, Drew, for sharing your professional insights to help families confronting substance use.

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A young adult is a hybrid of an adolescent and an adult. I consider most young adults that I work with to be professional adolescents since they have not yet taken on the responsibilities of an adult and have been in graduate studies in adolescent behavior. The oppositional-defiant behavior coupled with the feeling that they are entitled to free room and board eventually causes parents to feel disrespected, resulting in anger. This cycle creates chaos between the young adult and parents, and the untreated addiction coupled with immaturity continues to dominate all parties involved.

A new study shows that nearly 7 million American’s aged 18-25 (more than one in five young adults) needed treatment for drug or alcohol use in the last year. The study, conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) also shows that 95 percent of these young adults did not receive the help they needed at a treatment facility. These levels have remained fairly stable since 2002. In addition, 96 percent of the young adults needing help did not believe they needed the help. Even among the 4 percent who thought they needed treatment in the last year but did not receive it, less than on third made any attempt to get treatment.

Why is it so hard?

Deemed the most challenging age group to treat, the young adult population has flooded drug and alcohol treatment centers throughout the country. Many treatment centers have developed specific tracks, while others have devoted their entire program to this population.

Why? Because young adults do not easily fit into an adolescent group or an adult addiction group. Usually the young adult is the only 24-year old in a group of adults with the average age of 38. The young adult will quickly use this fact as a reason why an addiction program is not what they really need. This patient cannot relate to the adult stressors of childcare, marriage nor the pressure and responsibility of paying bills (which he has never experienced).

Further, this same population cannot identify with the adolescent group either. Adolescents face different stressors and challenges with sobriety when compared to the young adult. Part of this confusion stems from the young adult believing that they are grown men, mature and no longer need “babysitting,” which sometimes occurs in adolescent treatment programming.

For this reason, the combination of young adults with adolescents can be extremely counterproductive, causing patients to leave against medical advice or “checking out” for most of treatment.

How to Treat Young Adults with Addiction

Recognizing the unique needs of this population is imperative for successful recovery. Any addiction treatment program that treats this age group must have the experience, the ability and the interest to deal with this population.

The onset of chemical dependency in the adolescent or young adult stage of human development can result in arrested development preventing the sufferer from maturing into healthy adulthood. For this reason, many young adults arrive at treatment with many childish like tendencies.

For example, the young adult may become argumentative with his or her counselor, push the rules of the program and potentially get them removed from the program for breaking rules. It is common for addiction counselors to create behavioral plans, threaten to involve law enforcement and family, while confronting the young person on their acting out.

This is one of the greatest mistakes that a counselor can make. Confrontation generally makes the situation much worse. Young adults are naturally oppositional and respond poorly to demands and threats. Therefore, when counselors become agitated and frustrated with their client, it amplifies the situation.

The young adult is accustomed to being spoken down to and told that they are out of line or misbehaving. By re-enforcing this pattern, it essentially tells the patient that they are “bad” or “misunderstood”, which pushes them further away and leaving them to cope by using substances.

Changing Our Approach to Treatment for Young Adults

The solution lies in taking a more empathetic, compassionate and caring role to validate frustrations and provide support. Taking a client-centered position and changing the cycle will ultimately create greater outcomes.

The key: to not become part of the dangerous downward cycle that this population creates. By engaging in arguments it fuels the addiction and leads to poor outcomes and early discharges from treatment. However, when validated, recognized and heard, the young person is almost left speechless and in awe by the counselors attitude. It is this understanding and rapport that sets the young adult up for success.

In my experience, this population suffers tremendously from low self-esteem and self-worth. At the basis of their illness rests strong feelings of inadequacy and failure. It is these emotions that fuel the addiction and keeps the young person caught in a cycle of anger and helplessness. For that reason, the foundation of treatment must be built on trust, empathy, support and unconditional positive regard. Additionally, it is crucial that they play a strong role in their recovery. Asking them to assist in writing their treatment plans, allowing involvement in aftercare planning and validating frustrations and concerns goes a very long way with this group.

I recently asked one of my clients, “How can I help you in your recovery?” His response, “Just treat me like a person.” This young man has been through several rigorous treatment programs and all have failed him. The treatment center is not entirely at fault, however many have not set the stage for their recovery.

It is imperative that prior to treating young-adult clients that counselors must first build a strong alliance where the patient and his or her counselor can walk with them through their recovery as opposed to dictating their recovery.

About Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

Guest Blog: How I Became Addicted by @CharmedChelsie

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Recently @CharmedChelsie contacted Midwestern Mama to ask about publishing a guest blog post. It’s so helpful to get a young person’s perspective on addiction and recovery. Enjoy – and learn – from her post.

I believe it started when my parents separated. Being such a daddy’s girl back then, it really shook me up when he wasn’t in my life as much. My mom move me and my brother five hours away and I felt like my whole world came crashing down. Angry at my mom this is when I truly started rebelling for the first time. I was around 11 when I started not listening to anyone and getting angry very easily. No one saw the pain, I was just a spoiled brat with a mother who wasn’t disciplining me enough, which didn’t help because I actually felt the opposite of spoiled. I just had my dad, aka my whole world, taken from me. Seriously I used to follow my dad everywhere. He was the person I admired the most.

People kept telling my mom she needed to be stricter with me but it honestly didn’t matter what she did I wasn’t listening. She could ground me or whatever but unless she was ready to physically fight me I was listening.

I didn’t do anything to crazy then besides stay out late, skip class, smoke cigarettes and hanging out with the wrong people, especially boys.

IMG_20150725_004930 Chelsie IMG_20150729_020554 - Chelsie

I missed my dad and wanted to live with him so when he asked me to move there I drove my mom crazy until she agreed to let me go. I realize now that my dad being really hurt by the separation ended up putting me in a difficult situation. He made me feel like I needed to take care of him and that his happiness was my responsibility. I was only 11 when I was left home alone for days at a time. My dad was a truck driver and was gone a lot. Alone in a big city, I had to do the groceries, clean, make supper, pack my lunch, do my homework, get to school and not tell anyone about it because if I did they would take me away from my dad.

The burden I had to bare then still affects me now.

My dad wasn’t just using coke but was also selling in bulk. At 12 I was old enough to get suspicious and when I asked my dad what he was hiding he was honest with me. He believed keeping my trust was more important than keeping his secret. Whether he was right or wrong for telling me is debatable The first time I saw coke I was 12 years old, there was over a kilo of coke on our kitchen table. He asked me to sit down and help count the money and cut bags up for him. Not the typical childhood I know but it was our secret and he made me feel like I was a responsible adult. It was hard sometimes not to spill to my best friend at our sleepover parties but I was so scared I’d be taken away from my dad that I didn’t say a word to anyone.

Just before I turned 13 my dad started dating an escort and we barely got to spend time together anymore. I was alone all week and on the weekends she would be there and he would tell me to go play with her kids, like I wasn’t important anymore. She started smoking weed with me and her oldest daughter. My dad didn’t smoke weed but he didn’t seem to mind. She ended up leaving me in a bad part of town when she had a fight with my dad. It was a terrifying experience, I was lost and barely made it back home. My dad promised me it was over between them but when he started seeing her again I felt so betrayed that I decided to move back to my moms.

I had a friend there whose brother was prescribed Percocet and he would give us handfuls for free. This was back before anyone knew what the pills were.

Thankfully, I ended up moving to my dad’s before I was too physically dependent on them.

Once at my dad’s, I was smoking weed and doing ecstasy until my dad eventually offered me some coke for the first time when I was 14. I wanted so bad to spend more time with him that doing coke together was great way for me to do that. Then my stepmom would give me coke while my dad was at work because she wanted me to be quiet about her using or hanging out with some guy. The partying became all too much that I decided to move back to my mom’s at 15. She got me my own place and I tried to get my shit together. I got a job and was working on getting my high school diploma but accustomed to that lifestyle I found myself dating a dealer. He quickly moved in with me and the large amounts of coke I did everyday had me severely addicted.

By 16 I was a full-blown coke addict.

We eventually started doing Oxys to relax and sleep after a coke binge but I wasn’t exactly addicted yet. Once my dad got me a connection to start selling the pills I did so much of them that my body really couldn’t go without them. By the time I turned 17 I was addicted to oxys. I had no idea what I was in for. I knew nothing of addiction or the negative effects of drugs. I was taught drugs were great but when I eventually accumulated debt, and my selling career was over I realized how much I needed it. My body cried out for more. The aches and pains took over any control I had over my mind. I soon realized my body needed the oxy and my mind wanted the coke. Once I was high on coke, nothing else mattered. But once the high went away, my body screamed for an oxy.

I was able to go without coke way longer then I could go without oxys. I’d even quit coke for a bit here and there. But Oxys was the one thing that I couldn’t just stop because the withdrawals were too severe. After getting on methadone, I wasn’t ruled by my body as much as my mind.

In a way, trying to fix the mind can be even more confusing and difficult then fixing the body.

Yours truly,
Chelsie Charmed

Read Chelsie’s blog: Recoveringaddictsexperience.blogspot.ca

At Wits End with Your Teen’s Substance Use? The T.E.A.M. Approach is a Better Fit ThanTraditional Intervention for Young Adults

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Today’s guest blog post is by Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP, a Twin Cities-based substance use and mental health professional. Welcome to the #OYACommunity, and thank you for sharing part 2 of a 3-part series with our readers.

Recently I had a conversation with a mom from North Dakota, and truthfully, it’s a typical conversation I have with parents all over the country.

The mom asked, “Would you be able to come pick up my 22-year-old son and bring him to treatment in Minnesota?”

“Sure.” I replied. “I would be happy to help your son get the treatment he needs. What day are you thinking?”

Her reply: “Well that’s the thing, he doesn’t exactly want to go nor does he think he has a problem”

“Oooookay,” I said with an extended tone. “Well how exactly do you want this to happen?”

The parent went on to explain her utter exhaustion with her son’s addiction and reported that she and her husband were simply “done.” She wanted her son out ASAP and in a treatment center by the end of the week.

I asked the mother, “Have you tried to encourage your son to seek treatment, and if so what did he say?”

Her words: “I have told him over and over again that he has a serious drug problem and he is not the son we raised”.

Enough said, I understood.

The Traditional Approach to Intervention Doesn’t Work Well with Teens

In previous years, my common response entailed an immediate plan of action to quickly intervene and remove the young adult from the environment. The plan would have been simple, either he would come with me to Minnesota or exit the home and live independently (potentially with police involvement). Additionally, I would have placed the element of fear inside his head, by letting him believe that he either came with me or he positioned himself near death.

Using this traditional approach, I have conducted countless interventions nationwide. Repeatedly, I showed up at homes around the country and informed young adults that they had two choices: A. Go into treatment TODAY or B. live independently on the streets without the support of family or friends.

Addicted or not, almost 80% made the choice to reluctantly enter treatment. Leveraged into a corner, the young adult considers living independently on the streets, however, generally sees that treatment may be a better option.

That being said, it’s almost never a fairy-tale ending.

An extremely high percent of those admissions did not stay sober or even remain in treatment.

Families would call me a few weeks later and ask for help – in complete despair with the rebellious nature of their son or daughter.

A Realization in the Making

Continually, I was saddened by what I was seeing and it personally effected me. I realized that I was not actually providing a beneficial service to families as THEY, the families, were essentially dictating the course of action.

I posed the question to myself, “Shouldn’t it be I, the professional, to provide the family with the best option to support their son or daughter?” I pondered on that thought and knew that there must be a better way to do this!

Launching a New, Improved Approach to Helping Young Adults with Addiction

In August 2014, when I founded Drew Horowitz & Associates, I decided that my method of intervention would change. My objective would be to incorporate a strength-based, empowering approach to intervention.

The new approach is called the “Teen Environmental Advancement Model” (T.E.A.M) and it’s designed to help teenagers and young adults seek treatment for their existing substance use disorder.

It does not use leverage or force to move them into a recovery setting. Instead, this model works to educate people on themselves, identify values and aspirations, draw discrepancy between existing behavior and goals and learn about steps that best position them to be successful in life.

In my professional opinion, it made much more sense to “meet the client where they are at” and guide them through a process to begin understanding the detriment of their behavior. Not only does this model help the individual make their own decision to enter treatment, but also it increases the odds of long-term sobriety.

T.E.A.M. Work (Teen Environmental Advancement Model) 

Let me share the approach with you in with the counselor applies empathy, genuineness, self-disclosure and compassion and in which we continually work to strengthen rapport and alliance with the young person.

  • Preparation: This consists of the counselor gathering information from family and friends regarding the condition of the identified young person. This process helps the counselor come to understand the person of concern.
  • Introducing the idea: The counselor provides a suggested script for families to use when they introduce their loved one with the idea of meeting a counselor. The counselor then coaches parents and other family members on how to answer the person’s questions and address their objections, thereafter helping families overcome those barriers and create a segue for the counselor to meet with the person.
  • Meeting the Young Person: Next, we schedule a first meeting between the person of concern and the counselor. The counselor begins building rapport and establishing trust, taking an empathetic and person-centered approach that differentiates between the people being “sick” versus “bad.”
  • Building Discrepancy: At this point, the counselor meets with the person of concern to help identify goals, aspirations and personal values, continuing throughout to build rapport and validate the person’s thoughts, feelings and frustrations. While encouraging the person to attain their vision, the counselor begins the process of building discrepancy between the ways the person is living versus their values. The counselor methodically works to help the person see that their current behavior isn’t allowing them to be the person they want to be. In most cases, the person of concern starts to become self-aware of their destructive behaviors and agrees with some need for change.
  • Making a Recommendation: Now the counselor recommends a course of action. This involves remaining non-confrontational and compassionate while informing the person that the next step in moving forward and accomplishing their goals entails entering a treatment program of some type. Opposition and frustration are typical responses, to which the counselor reminds the person that by seeking treatment they best position themselves to be successful in life and attain goals. However, the person is never forced into treatment, but instead is encouraged to keep an open mind about the process. It is not uncommon for the person to start at a lower level of care and work up to an in-patient setting.
  • Entering Treatment: The counselor arranges transport to the treatment facility and, in the interim, prepares the person for their treatment experience, investing considerable time in articulating to the person how much courage and strength they’re demonstrating by taking this life-changing step.
  • Moving Forward: At this point, the person of concern is under the care of the treatment provider and it’s critical that they remain on track. Toward that end, the counselor’s role changes to that of a clinical case manager for the person and a family educator for their loved ones. Ideally, the counselor visits the person in treatment weekly or biweekly, depending on the facility’s location.
  • Providing After Care: As primary treatment concludes, the person of concern receives a recommendation for continuing care. The counselor supports the treatment program’s recommendation and encourages the person to follow through, applying intervention tactics and working with the family as needed to ensure that they take the appropriate aftercare steps.
  • Turning it Over: The counselor’s involvement isn’t intended to be long-term. The hope is, after a period of time, the person of concern will no longer be a concern. The counselor defers to the recovery community and encourages the person to lean on their new found community—their sponsor and peers—for ongoing support. That said, the counselor never declines a phone call or meeting request.

Using the T.E.A.M. model, I have seen a massive increase in positive outcomes among young adults: Pleasant goodbyes from home, motivation in treatment to get healthy, abiding by aftercare recommendations and active participation in the recovery process.

In order to be effective with today’s vulnerable young adult population, we must promote autonomy, strength and mutuality. I now leave interventions with a sense of inner peace and hopefulness that I had never experienced in the past. More importantly, our young loved ones and their families are finding a similar inner peace and hopefulness, too.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, has a vast range of experiences working with addiction and mental health. He gained a wealth of knowledge through his own recovery coupled with extensive training: a master’s level education from the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction and an undergraduate degree in psychology and human development from Hofstra University. Following a career with several substance abuse and mental health organizations, he formed Drew Horowitz & Associates, LLC, an organization designed to assist young men who struggle to overcome addiction and mental health.

Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP
Drew Horowitz, MA, LADC, RAS, CIP
Contact Drew:

http://drewhorowitzassociates.com/

horowitzassociates@gmail.com

651-698-7358

©2015 Our Young Addicts         All Rights Reserved

#TBT – Where Will He Sleep Tonight? A Homeless Young Addict

One of the most difficult and saddest aspects of Midwestern Mama’s experience with a young addict was her son’s homelessness. Nothing in this experience broke her heart more.

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As we head into the Independence Day weekend, I remember how chained my son was to his addiction. Just a few years back, my son was homeless. I wrote about this for the Pioneer Press in January 2012.A Real Mom 1-6-12 Where Will He Sleep Tonight?

Each day, I would pray for his freedom from chemical dependency and for his choice to become sober. For me, and I think for him, the homelessness was the most devastating part of the addiction experience. I wish it on no one.

Today, I am grateful that he is sober – one year on July 11, 2015, and successfully living at home with our family.

Midwestern Mama