Adolescence Feelings Recovery

Fear and Loathing in Sobriety

It’s not every day that we voluntarily pay money to walk in to a place of horror and experientially tread through our fears. However, this past Saturday, we hosted our annual Knott’s Scary Farm event, wherein we did just that. Truth be told, it’s a popular event! I’m not sure if it’s a teen thing or a personality thing, but some folks just love to be scared! The thing is, we’re all scared of something, right? For this event, it might simply be things jumping out at you, for others it could be coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, and for some, it’s monsters in general. The tagline at Knott’s Scary Farm is “All You Fear is Here,” and boy, do they keep their promise. They have a foggy Ghost Town, where you can barely see your hand in front of your face, and is home to growling monsters, including the notorious Sliders (monsters and clowns that literally slide on their knees and hands out of nowhere to scare you!); they have CarnEVIL, where clowns and vaudevillians haunt your walk; and then there’s Necropolis, the city of the undead, filled with vamps galore. There’s sure to be at least one thing at this metropolis of fear that will make your blood run cold.

So, how do you deal with your fears when you’re there? If running and screaming makes the monsters chase you, then what would happen if you turn and face them? Our minds feed into our fears, making them appear to be intangible and often times providing us with a sense of unmanageability. In sobriety, addressing our fears can be a challenge and one we invariably shut the door on–fear of the fear, if you will. We drank, used, starved, stuffed, cut, punched, et cetera, as a means of chasing our fears away, but the truth is, they never really went anywhere.  So, when these clowns (yes, I have an epic clown fear) came bursting into our personal space, I decided not to run, or scream, but to turn and face them. Some of the kids even began mimicking their movements and growls, and each time, the clowns or monsters inevitably took their “scare” elsewhere. In fact, some even had conversations with us. Granted, they were still frightening to look at, and having them come sliding out of nowhere was still an effective fright tool, but disempowering their ferocity made them significantly less scary and made the fear manageable. Yes, that’s right, manageable!

This type of situation presents us with a wonderful metaphor for confronting our fears, though. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned during my sobriety is that if I shine light into the dark corners and look at the very thing that is frightening, I discover the shadows are just that: shadows. No, it doesn’t invalidate the genuine fears that exist, but it certainly shrinks their size and makes them a little easier to manage. In the case of Knott’s Scary Farm, fortunately, we don’t have to face bloody clowns and monsters on a daily basis, but if or when we do, being mindful of how we respond and monitoring our reactions will hopefully make us less of a target. It can also make for some interesting albeit peculiar conversations with the creatures of the night!

Adolescence Bullying

Dating Violence: Where’s the R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Domestic violence doesn’t play the race card, class card, or age card–it has no boundaries: it thrives on dominance and control. In teens, it’s referred to as dating violence, a type of intimate partner violence, wherein a partner is pinched, hit, shoved, or kicked; they are often shamed, called names, bullied, embarrassed with intent, and isolated from friends and family; they are sometimes forced to engage in non-consensual sex. When started early in one’s life, these relationships can lead to a pattern of abuse as they grow older. If intimacy is learned through violence and fear, then violence and fear become the normative behavior, making healthy interactions seem foreign and perhaps even uncomfortable. Sometimes the initial teasing and name-calling that occur are considered normal, but often times, they are just the opening act leading to more serious violence like battering and/or rape.

This is a serious issue, but sadly, teens don’t usually report dating violence for fear of what friends or family may think. The fact is, it’s happening with more and more frequency, and to more people than we care to admit. These statistics from the CDCspeak volumes:

  • 1 in 4 adolescents report verbal, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse from a dating partner each year
  • About 10% of students nationwide report being physically hurt by a boyfriend of girlfriend in the past 12 months

According to the US Department of Justice, “Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group,” and according to the Empower Program, sponsored by Liz Claiborne, “A majority of parents (54%) admit they’ve not spoken to their child about dating violence.” So, while this behavior is often recognized (and yet ignored) amongst teens, the parental knowledge base seems scanty at best. Parents are afraid to talk about it, and kids are afraid to go to their parents; that’s a double-negative detrimental to affecting change of any kind, now isn’t it! The CDC lists warning signs for someone at risk for using dating violence–recognizing these signs early may help stop the cycle of abuse before it can start:

  • Poor social skills;
  • Inability to manage anger and conflict;
  • Belief that using dating violence is acceptable;
  • Having more traditional beliefs about male and female roles;
  • Witnessing violence at home;
  • Alcohol use;
  • Having behavioral problems in other areas;
  • Having a friend involved in dating violence;
  • Witnessing violence in the community.

Other things we can do is foster positive, healthy relationships with our children, model loving behavior in the home, and talk about what’s going on with our kids or within the community regarding violence, even if it’s scary! Because if we don’t talk about it, our kids are ultimately at risk for trying to “fix” their problem with things like drugs and alcohol, and that’s just going to create another layer of dysfunctionality, opening more doors for despair to flourish.

Addiction Adolescence Prevention

The Pharmaceutical Barter System

When was the last time you checked YOUR medicine cabinet for expired and/or unnecessary medications? You know, the ones from that surgery you had 4 years ago? Most parents are concerned that their kids will experiment with street drugs and alcohol, but the reality is, many are dipping into their parents medicine cabinets looking for a cheap (free) and easy way to propel themselves into delirium. In actuality, prescription drugs are more accessible and are often mistaken for being safer because the drug has been legitimized by an MD.

According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America:

  • 1 in 5 teens has abused a prescription pain medication
  • 1 in 5 report abusing prescription stimulants and tranquilizers
  • 1 in 10 has abused cough medicine

One of the more disturbing trends among teens are “pharm parties“:  kids raiding their parents’ medicine cabinets for prescription drugs and bartering their finds amongst themselves to get high. While the term itself is up for debate and often criticized for being a media fallacy, the behavior is real and easily confirmed from a treatment standpoint. There’s nary a counselor who has worked with adolescents that will claim falsehood in relation to pharmaceutical bartering amongst the teen set. Two driving factors of adolescent prescription drug abuse are:

  • a misperception that prescription medication isn’t harmful
  • the ease of access to these drugs at home, a friends house, and even the Internet.

So, here’s some sage words of advice for worried friends and families alike:

  • be mindful of what you have and how much you have
  • keep track of your refills
  • if your teen has been prescribed a drug, make sure YOU monitor it, not them
  • educate your friends and relatives about the danger of prescription drugs
  • discard drugs that are either expired or which are no longer needed
  • when disposing of medications, mix them with undesirable items like coffee grounds or kitty litter
  • do not flush medication down the toilet
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