Just Tell Me What to Do!

A friend looked across the table at me and said, “If I came to your site, I’d want you to tell me what to do: number one, number two, number three.”

I wish it were that easy.  I am not a clinician nor an expert, but  I can pass on what I have learned and what has worked for others.

sad dad

My friend Kim’s daughter is four years in recovery from drug addiction. Kim shot off what she has gleaned from experience when I asked her what she would tell parents.

  1. Trust your instinct. If you sense something is wrong, it probably is.
  2. Educate yourself on alcohol and other drugs,  and the tips and signs of drug use. Here is a comprehensive list of tips for parents. Love it. Thanks Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation.
  3. If you seek professional help, find someone in practice who has either personal experience in addiction or specializes in youth addiction.
  4. Don’t give up on your child. That doesn’t mean you can’t detach with love, use tough love or have clear boundaries.  It means that no one is hopeless.
  5. Verbalize what you feel with someone you trust.  Get help for yourself. You can start with Al Anon.

I agree with Kim.

Make a call

Your Choice to Live, Inc. offers a one-time session with parents or families, called, “One Family to Another.”  The Lybert family who founded Your Choice, will meet with families to determine a plan of action for the family of a using teen.  They have walked the walk of a child in addiction.  It’s free, but I suggest a donation to Your Choice. This is a southeastern Wisconsin program.

I’ve participated in one of these sessions.  Parents who are divided about what to do with a drug-using child find the Lyberts’ identification and third-party suggestions unifying.

The Lybert family has been through the wringer and come out on the other side.  Rick and Sandi’s son Tyler was a full-blown drug addict by age 15.  Wreaking havoc on his family as a Heroin addict and  growing a police record, Lyberts couldn’t take it anymore.  They made some hard choices.  “I was afraid if we cut him loose he would die,” Sandi says, “but the truth is, he was an 80 pound Heroin addict — he was already dying.”

Today Tyler is six years clean and leading a spectacular life.  The Lyberts are as close a family as they have ever been. That is convenient because they speak together all over the Midwest with Your Choice to Live, Inc., the organization they formed to educate parents and students to avoid the devastation of drug and alcohol abuse.

Explore options

When our child is using alcohol and/or other drugs, we may think it’s their bad experimentation gone awry or a temporary reaction to trauma, or a phase that will pass.  Those things might be true, but why not do what you can to make sure it isn’t an addiction or doesn’t grow to be one?  Why not do what you can as early as you can to treat what very well might be a full-blown addiction?  It’s never too early to intervene.

We could have known much sooner if we had known.  Yes, that’s a catch 22 isn’t it?  Thus, the website.  Please walk around it but if you, like my friend said, want to take action this every minute because action is what you need, consider the following.

Detour, Stop and Think, Connections Counseling’s options for Madison college-age students, counseling, and family counseling are yours to consider for early intervention. Again, those are southeastern and central Wisconsin programs.

Avoid getting overwhelmed by treatment choices

Treatment facility choices can be overwhelming apart from the quality Midwestern big ones, Hazelden/Betty Ford Foundation, RosecranceRogers Memorial and Nova. It’s often a good idea for our loved one to get out of Dodge. Acadia Healthcare has a premier site in Tucson and other sites around the country.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)  has a helpful “Find Treatment” locator page by address, city or zip code.

If you are in the middle of mental health issues with your loved one, resources found on the National Alliance for Mental Health — NAMI — website might be a good place to start. They even have a helpline.

Disclaimer: I’m married to an attorney so I know that I need to say that although I know and trust many of the mentioned treatment providers, I in no way guarantee results from any or all of them. Those results need to come from the person in treatment.

From an expert                                      

Dr. Carlo DiClemente is a psychologist with 25 years conducting research in health and addictive behaviors and author of the book, Addiction and Change: How Addictions Develop and Addicted People Recover.  I asked him, “But what should a family DO if they suspect their child is using drugs?”  “Drug test them,” he told me.  Institute disciplinary consequences if the drug test is positive.  Randomly drug test them again at a later date and if the test is positive, get family counseling.” Family counseling — interesting.  It makes perfect sense.  Anyone with a child in crisis knows it throws the whole family in crisis.  Everyone participates.

Twice I called my friend’s uncle who is a drug and alcohol counselor in upper Wisconsin.  The first time was to say, “Here’s what we’re seeing. Do you think Ted is using drugs?” The second time was, “Ted’s using drugs.  What do we do?”  He told me about treatment and offered some options.  We pursued one and Ted went to treatment.  We talked about faith and Ted’s seeming lack of it.  “You have to get the drugs out before God can come in,” Jeff said.  I’ll never forget it.  That made sense to me.

Ted was several years in recovery when I asked a young AODA counselor at Connections Counseling in Madison,  “So what would you say are the top things parents can do when they know their child is using drugs?”  He thought for a moment — hard — and said, “Tough love, and get help for yourself.”

“Tough love, and get help for yourself”

Tough love means different things to different people and is appropriate in different settings. Might it be better put in the contrary?  Don’t deny , don’t enable, don’t continue to make exceptions for THIS child.  (Been there, done that.)  Something that helped us was saying to ourselves, “Would we treat our other kids with the same kid gloves?”

Getting help for yourselves as parents might be getting counseling.  A fresh perspective, professional insight, (they’ve seen it before and we haven’t)  and some tools for hard conversations are extremely useful.  It might be Al Anon (for those with a friend or family in addiction) or Celebrate Recovery (which has a break-out group for those who love a substance abuser) or a parent support group.  Your local treatment center or county social service resource for substance abuse might have one.

Family Groups and Counseling

Locally here in southeastern Wisconsin we have the CJ Lomas Foundation Parent Support Group and The Addiction Resource Council Family Support Group.  Red Oak Counseling in Elm Grove has a group for those who find themselves wrapped up in another’s addiction.  Note also, Alliance Counseling and Cornerstone Counseling. If you’re in the Madison area or want to go there, Connections Counseling.  If you find more, let me know, Sarah@justkeepgoingparents.com.  We lose a lot of ourselves while trying to keep the ship upright.  As they say on the airplanes, put the oxygen mask on yourself before trying to assist others.