Visions knows that a family in crisis needs requires an intensive family program. It doesn’t benefit a family to be viewed as having individual branches that need to be removed, trimmed or repaired. We are thrilled to be building out our 3-day intensive family program with the help of Jeff and Terra Holbrook. They have been doing family work for almost two decades and are deeply committed to healing the family system. Their insight and experience are invaluable and in line with the culture of Visions. Visions wants the family to heal from the inside out; We require all families to go to:
Weekly parent support groups;
Weekly multi-family groups; and
Individual family sessions.
Families are also encouraged to go to outside support groups (Al-Anon, AA, ACA, Refuge Recovery, et cetera). When we meet with families, we address issues of attachment, enmeshment, codependency, and we assist families in creating healthy boundaries. The recovery process requires a level of willingness and curiosity on everyone’s part and it is particularly important to do family work because addiction and mental health are rooted in the family system. It is not uncommon for parents and loved ones affected by their child’s addiction or mental illness to become angry, place blame, distance themselves from their child, or try to fix the problem themselves; often times, the focus remains on the addict. Here’s where an intensive family program comes in.
Think of the family system as a garden. Imagine the roots of everything in the garden weaving their way through nutrient rich soil containing love, respect, healthy boundaries, positive attention, and connection to healthy resources. Now imagine what happens when that same soil becomes fallow: The roots begin to suffer from neglect, abuse, abandonment, deprivation, and entanglement; the garden begins to whither away, grasping onto whatever is closest to try to survive. Family systems need to be nurtured from their root systems all the way up. Removing one unhealthy part won’t allow the entire system to heal. In fact, the entire root system will malfunction as a result.
Our intensive family program provides salient educational tools for parents to learn to face addiction and mental health in a healthier way. Families must begin to unpeel their own layers, and begin looking deeply within themselves and at the origins of their own root systems. Parents must also understand what they are asking their kids to do to recover, and more importantly, it’s invaluable for parents to show their kids they are willing to do the same hard work. For example, if a family is asking their kids to look at how they are powerless, that same family needs to ask themselves the same question. Addiction and mental health are a family disease; they are not isolated incidents wherein one family member goes rogue. As David Sheff, author of Clean says, “The addicted are not morally bereft, they are ill.”
An intensive family program will also help parents move away from the stigma of mental health and addiction and move toward acceptance and healing. Families are often surprised to find out that their feelings are in line with their child’s: Both may feel angry, betrayed, ashamed, scared, resentful, frustrated, tired, and so on. When parents are able to shed a light on these similarities, the willingness to look at the hows and whys of addiction and mental illness becomes more palpable. Recognizing this similarity also elicits compassion and empathy for their child and for themselves. When a family can recognize that everything is connected, recovery can truly bloom.
Prescription drugs are one of the easiest drugs to obtain.
Often times, it’s as simple as going into the medicine cabinet at home, at a neighbor’s house, a friend’s house or a family member’s home. This ease of accessibility coupled with the curiosity and natural rebelliousness of teenagers is a recipe for experimentation, sneakiness, and even mimicry of parental actions.
Some kids start using prescription drugs because they are trying to inappropriately cope with their stress or anxiety; some use it to try to get an “in” with a certain crowd. There are those, too, who have been prescribed a medication for one thing, notice a “benefit” for something else (like more focus on a test), and begin misusing it or sharing it with their friends.
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than 71, 000 children ages 18 and under are seen in the ER for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.
Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription medications get them from friends, family, and acquaintances.
Among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug (behind marijuana)
Teens ages 12-17 have the second-highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse; young adults 18-25 have the highest rate.
Every day, 2700 teens try prescription drugs for the first time with the intent of getting high.
Nearly one in four teens have taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them.
One in three teens report being offered a prescription drug or OTC medication for the purpose of getting high.
One in three teens report having a close friend who abuses prescription pain medications.
One in four teens report having a close friend who abuses cough medicine to get high.
One in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.
Parents need to take preventative actions with all of their medications. Do you safely dispose of unused medications? Or do they reside in the dark corners of your medicine cabinet, collecting dust on their exhausted expiration dates? Are they loosely out on a counter or tabletop which is easily accessible? Now is the time to batten down the hatches, so to speak, and take some preventative measures. Our kids watch us all the time; they learn from our actions and reactions, and they often mimic us so it behooves us to behave in a way that we would like to see our children behave. Trust me, seeing my son say something sarcastic and realizing he’s just mimicking me is mortifying, and that’s just sarcasm! Kids will try anything on, and if taking a lot of medications is part of your habitual behavior, they will try that on too.
Communicate with your kids and educate them about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Be honest and age appropriate.
Don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you. (A recent study by The Partnership at Drugfree.org showed that 27 percent of parents have taken a prescription medicine without having a prescription for it themselves.)
Store your medications in a secure place.
Count and monitor the amount of pills you have before you lock them up.
Prescription drugs are being hailed as the new gateway drug.
More often than not, one begins with prescription opiates and ends up using and abusing street drugs. The reality is, once the medicine cabinets are depleted and the sheer cost of Oxycontin, Vicodin, etc., becomes prohibitive, the path inevitably darkens.
and many are saying there’s a Heroin epidemic, mostly because of the recent celebrity overdoses and increase in heroin deaths across the country. The latest celebrity death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman seemed to really strike a nerve. Is it because he was clean for a long period of time, openly talking about his troubles with addiction? Or is it because he’s someone we as an audience want or need to respect because of his wide range of talent? It’s a loss, a great one, but it is more a reminder of the devastation drug use can cause.
The use of heroin is prime for a death sentence and its inexpensive procurement makes it an easier and more desirable go-to than drugs like Oxycontin, particularly if you are young, desperate, and broke. At the same time, for celebrities like Hoffman or Cory Monteith, familiarity may be the calling card.
According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.”
And according to a 2012 Monitoring the Future study (a NIDA funded survey of teens in grades 8, 10, and 12, only 0.05% of 8th graders, 0.6% of 10th graders and 12th graders reported using heroin at least once in the past year. The number of teens using heroin is down significantly to what it was in the 1990s. The main concern now is that teens addicted to prescription opiods like Oxycontin will eventually turn to heroin because of its low cost.
Concerned about your teen or young adult? Here are some signs to look for:
Pupils very small, like pinpoints, even in dim light
Marks on the skin (if heroin is injected vs sniffed)
Talking to someone who has a drug problem isn’t always easy, in fact, it can be down right difficult. You may encounter denial, anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and you may face a litany of excuses. Regardless, encourage your friend or loved one to talk to a counselor or a teacher, or trusted adult. Be kind and encouraging and make sure you are also getting the support you need. Reaching out to a friend or loved one lost in the throes of their addiction can be overwhelming and deeply upsetting. Make sure you also have resources you need to decompress and ground yourself: a therapist, AlAnon, CoDA, or a space or practice that you can lean into to take care of yourself.
can be an important part of a company, school or drug rehabilitation center’s policy. Some parents have even taken it upon themselves to initiate drug testing in their own homes in the interest of keeping their children drug free.
And while most drug testing programs use the urine drug testing method, there are other ways of testing for substance abuse. We will look at the three most common drug testing methods and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
Instant drug tests and lab drug tests
All drug testing falls into one of these two categories.
Instant tests, as the name implies, can be done on the spot and give you instant results in just a few simple steps.
For laboratory testing, you of course have to go to a laboratory where the tests are performed with sophisticated equipment. Samples can be collected either at the laboratory or collected off site and taken to the lab for testing.
Drug testing programs in business or institutional environments will usually include a two step process that includes both instant and laboratory tests. An instant test will be performed initially and if that returns a positive result, a follow up test on the sample will be performed at a laboratory. These lab tests are important because instant test results aren’t admissible in court. If the test result is to be used for a legal matter, such as termination of employment, for example, the sample must be laboratory tested for confirmation purposes.
The obvious advantage of instant drug testing is that it gives you instant results. The instant drug testing kits are also inexpensive compared to booking laboratory time for drug testing. With many kits, it’s also possible to test for multiple drugs at the same time. Some of them can even test for over a dozen drugs that include all the common street drugs, plus prescription drugs.
As for disadvantages, aside from the fact that the results are not admissible in court, another knock on instant drug tests is that they do give the occasional false positive reading. Even worse, they also give the occasional false negative reading.
On the laboratory side, the advantages are that the testing is handled by professionals and the results can be used in court, as they confirm the presence of drugs. The expense, plus the time it takes to get results, which ranges from hours to weeks, are disadvantages to laboratory testing.
By combining instant drug testing and laboratory testing, costs can be kept down by primarily using the instant tests and only sending the samples that give a positive result away for laboratory confirmation.
Different Types of drug testing
Although you may occasionally see blood and sweat referenced in terms of drug testing, and both those bodily fluids can be used, the three most common ways of drug testing are by using samples of urine, saliva or hair.
It is possible to use an instant testing kit when using urine or saliva to drug test. With these kits, you can collect a sample anywhere (you’ll need a private place for urine, obviously) and test the substances right on the spot. Or, you can collect the samples and have them sent away to a laboratory for testing.
Hair testing cannot be done instantly. Hair samples can be collected any place, but the actual testing will have to be done at a laboratory.
As far as the most common way to drug test, urine reigns supreme. It’s used in the majority of employment testing, pre-employment screening, military and sports drug testing.
Depending on the type of drug and other factors like a person’s body composition, urine tests can detect drugs in a person’s system from a few hours after they’ve ingested them until about a week afterward, maybe a bit longer.
The instant urine drug tests require a person to give a sample of a certain size and then seeing how that urine reacts with specific chemicals meant to detect drug metabolites.
Tests come in different formats like testing strips, where you dip the strip into the urine, or testing cassettes where you have to transfer some of the urine onto the cassette. A popular instant urine test for obvious reasons is the all-on-one cups where you get the sample donor to fill a cup and you put a lid on the cup and push a button to enact the test, never needing to actually interact with the liquid.
Laboratory urine tests will involve doing an instant drug test (known as immunoassay tests) and if the results are positive, running a more sophisticated (and expensive) test that usually involve gas chromatography–mass spectrometry or a similar type of test.
Obviously the advantages are that this type of testing can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively, plus, because it’s the most common type of drug testing, most people are familiar with it already.
The disadvantages of urine testing are that the sample collection can’t quite be done anywhere. The collection process is also a bit invasive. In some organizations like the military, sample collection must be watched.
And urine tests can be cheated. Some common forms of cheating include:
swapping in someone else’s clean urine,
drinking excessive amounts of water or other liquids to dilute the sample, and
adding a foreign substance (salt, vinegar, bleach etc.) to the sample.
Fortunately, these types of cheating can be easily thwarted. Temperature strips can detect when urine isn’t body temperature, which a fresh sample would be. Also, observation of the sample collection prevents swapping. Many tests can detect watered down samples and properly trained testing technicians will be able to spot a diluted sample, not to mention that most drugs aren’t water soluble so this won’t help people cheat in a lot of cases anyway. Many modern instant tests are also equipped to detect adulterated samples, as well as the aforementioned properly trained drug testing technicians. Laboratories will have safeguards in place to detect cheating.
Often referred to as oral fluid tests, they involve taking a swab of fluid from the mouth of the sample donor. The results are available instantly and these tests can detect drug use from about an hour after usage to a few days after usage depending on the type of drug.
The relatively short period of detection is one of their disadvantages.
However, a clear advantage is that the collection process for saliva testing can be done anywhere and can be observed without privacy concerns.
As far as cheating, it has been noted that gum and cigarettes can interfere with the results of these tests, so precautions have to be taken to ensure no gum is chewed or cigarettes smoked immediately prior to the test.
Hair testing involves cutting several dozen strands of hair from a person’s head or body and sending them to a laboratory for testing (the sample collection can also be done in some labs). Short hair is perfectly fine to use and, as mentioned, body hair can also be used. And while cutting off a person’s hair is obviously somewhat invasive, the hair is cut from the back of the head from a few different spots so as to not be obvious.
In the lab, the hair will be liquified and then split into its various components to check for drug metabolites. A huge advantage for hair testing is that it can check for drug use as far back as three months prior to the date of the test. And, not only can it detect the type of drug used, but also how frequently it was used.
Another huge advantage is that it is impossible to cheat. The internet is full of “advice” for people on how to cheat a hair drug test, but no shampoo, dye or bleach can change the molecular makeup of the hair, which is what the tests look at.
However, aside from the aforementioned invasiveness, hair testing has other disadvantages. It’s more expensive than either urine or saliva testing, there is no instant option and drug metabolites won’t show up in hair until about a week after usage. So, for example, if a person used cocaine on Tuesday and a hair sample was taken from them the following Thursday, the cocaine usage from two days beforehand would not be detected.
Whether used in a professional environment or in the home, drug testing can help keep employees, students, children, athletes and others free from the harmful effects of drugs. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages and which one is best for any given situation will depend on cost and other factors.
We’ve done several blogs on the street drugs Molly, K2 and Spice, and now it’s time to take a look at Krokodil. Krokodil is a homemade heroin substitute birthed in a rural part of Russia. Its primary ingredient is desomorphine – a morphine derivative once used in Switzerland in the 30s under the brand name Permonid because of its effectiveness and reputation for being short-acting with a quick onset–it’s around 8-10 times more potent than morphine. The street use is far different and much more sinister.
Krokodil is manufactured from what is purported to be a simple synthesis of codeine combined with ingredients such as paint thinner, iodine, and red phosphorus (among other things). Toxic city! And it’s aptly named Krokodil because its use can turn your skin black, green and/or scaly—like a crocodile. David DiSalvo at Forbes wrote that it is “Essentially a corrosive acid with opiate effects, it (sic) destroys body tissue the way battery acid eats through plastic, opening large sores that can go all the way to the bone.” Russia is the largest consumer of heroin in the world, and Krokodil is its street-ready replacement since heroin has become harder and harder to obtain. The extreme poverty in rural Russia and desperation for escape is fueling a dangerous addiction.
So far, krokodil isn’t a real threat to the US, where heroin and other street drugs are easy to come by. However, when two patients in Ohio claimed to be using the drug, and were showing signs they were suffering from the consequences of krokodil use, Dany Thekkemuriyil and Unnikrishnan Pillai, both physicians at SSM St. Mary’s Health Center in Richmond Heights, Mo, reported their findings to the American Journal of Medicine. Right now, the main issue with this particular synthetic drug relies on its prevalence in other countries. Purportedly, the cases in the US that were initially believed to be krokodil have not been confirmed and none tested positively for desomorphane. What we are especially seeing is the International effects of a dangerous street drug borne out of poverty and hosted by severe addiction and despair. It is cause for concern from a global standpoint. This is also a great reminder to remain knowledgeable about what drugs are out there, not to encourage panic, but to arm ourselves with clearer understanding and awareness. The truth is, we need to be more aware of drug use, carry out proper disposal of medications after they are no longer needed, and begin using healthier resources to manage our stress and discomfort. There’s no need to start playing scientist to get away from our feelings.
We all have had our share of bad luck, but for some of us, we need to really take a look at whether or not this is bad luck at all or if our drinking and using is getting in the way.
Let’s break it down:
1. You seem to have a lot of bad luck involving the law.
You are chronically pulled over for traffic infractions or for looking suspicious; your parking tickets are piling up in your glove box, or every time you walk into a store, you are shadowed by security. Police officers always have it out for you, right? No. Typically speaking, our questionable actions draw negative attention. As we come into recovery and start looking at these actions of ours, we will often find that the “bad luck” around the law dissipates. When we start doing the recovery work set out for us by our sponsors, mentors, counselors, and therapists, our outlook changes and so does our luck!
2. Relationships never work out.
You fight with your parents, your teachers, your friends and it starts to feel like no one likes you. Sound familiar? Everyone around you is annoying, or maybe they “just don’t understand.” When we are in our disease, we are prone to pushing those who are close to us away. Resistance to change or hearing the truth prevents us from having solid relationships. I have worked with women whose go-to is to do everything in their power to push me away: yelling, defiance, and insults. As a sponsor/mentor, I have learned to maintain strong boundaries while remaining unwavering in my support. Often times, the desire is to push people away because letting them get too close is terrifying. Fear of abandonment or of commitment is a powerful tool of resistance. There is a fear of vulnerability, but vulnerability is what allows us to work through that fear. This is a good place to take contrary action.
3. There is always something that causes you to be late or not show up at all.
There was traffic or you woke up late or “something came up.” There is ALWAYS something that prevents you from being on time, or you change plans at the last minute, or you simply don’t show up at all. A lot of the times, this self-sabotaging behavior is precluded by a fear of commitment or a desire to go where you think the “party” will be (again, fear of commitment). Have you ever accumulated a series of “maybes” so you could see which invite was the most fun? Making a commitment and being responsible sometimes means missing out on something that is interesting to you. In recovery, we learn to do what we say we will do, even when something better comes along. Taking a commitment at a meeting teaches this really well!
4. You have a hard time keeping a job, or maintaining commitments at school.
You got fired again? Glee club has had it and finally kicked you out? Coach has benched you for the rest of the season this time? Time to look at your actions to see where you are falling short. The truth is people aren’t out to get you; self-sabotage is the culprit here. We have to begin the process of looking within in order to figure out what drives our negative actions. Addiction and untreated mental health is often times fodder for the persistent sense of ill-will and inconsistency.
5. Your teachers seem to be out to get you, conversely, so do your parents.
No one is really out to get you. Addiction likes to pin us in victim mode, telling us time and time again, “the world is out to get us,” “if only people understood me,” et cetera, et cetera. Take your power back and get to work so you can take responsibility for your actions! The 12 steps, a meditation practice, yoga, therapy, being of service: all of these things teach you to identify the truth within, no matter how uncomfortable that may be. Your parents and teachers have your best interests in mind, eventually you will too.
6. Car trouble is your middle name.
Does this sound familiar: It’s always breaking down, or you never have gas, or the tire is flat, or there’s a boot on it because you forgot to pay all of your parking tickets (see #1). When we stop taking responsibility for our actions, and rely on fate or magical thinking to make things better, things inevitably get worse. We can’t think our way out of difficulties; we have to take the appropriate actions to climb out on our own. So, start paying the parking tickets when you get them (I still have trouble doing this!), fill up your tank when it’s half full, check your tires and service your car.
I’ve learned that the most difficult part of putting on your big-girl panties is…putting on your big-girl panties. The rest is pretty easy. You know what? Taking responsibility and doing the work actually feels good. So does dropping the weight of chronic having bad luck.
Something to ponder: When we do esteemable acts, we garner self-esteem; when we take responsibility for our actions, we lower our stress and garner respect from those around us; when we ask for help, we find solace in community. No one said recovery and change would be easy, but fear and resistance generate the difficulties you most often have. You can do this, one breath, one step, one positive act at a time.
Synthetic Marijuana is back in the news, this time under the names “Crazy Clown” or “Herbal Madness Incense.” Eight teens and young adults were sent to the hospital in Georgia this weekend because of the effects of this drug. The CDC is investigating this latest designer drug incarnation and has issued a warning. The use of synthetic marijuana is incredibly dangerous and presents a growing public health concern. According to the CDC:
“Sixteen cases of synthetic cannabinoid-related acute kidney injury occurred in six states in 2012. Synthetic cannabinoids, which are sold in smoke shops and convenience stores under names like ‘synthetic marijuana,’ ‘Spice,’ ‘K2,’ or ‘herbal incense,’ are designer drugs dissolved in solvent, applied to plant material, and smoked. These psychoactive drugs can have a significant effect on mood or behavior, but also carry the risk of unpredictable toxicity. The growing use of synthetic cannabinoid products is an emerging public health concern. The sixteen cases reported in this study developed kidney damage after smoking synthetic cannabinoid products. In seven of the cases, analyses of the products or blood or urine samples found a unique cannabinoid called XLR-11. These products are often sold as incense and labeled “Not for Human Consumption.” Despite the labeling, individuals use the products as an alternative to marijuana use. There is a risk that some cannabinoid compounds may be toxic and the health effects may not be easily predictable because of what is still unknown about the products. However, it is important that clinicians, scientists, public health officials, and law enforcement are alerted about the emerging adverse health effects from synthetic drug use.”
Symptoms from the use of this latest version of synthetic marijuana include:
We’ve written about Spice, K2, Cloud Nine, bath salts, and all other incarnations of these designer drugs before. They are enticing, especially to teens and young adults looking for a cheap, quick high. Because these drugs are easily obtained at liquor stores and convenience marts, their often innocuous packaging makes them seem harmless or just “fun.”
For now, the active ingredient is unknown, but we know that it is highly dangerous. One of the most troublesome issues regarding synthetic marijuana is the ever-changing ingredients: As soon as one ingredient is banned, it morphs into something new, creating a maelstrom of issues for law enforcement, medical professionals, and the CDC. Usually new synthetic marijuana is discovered because of an increase in ER visits. This stuff is lethal. What looks like a cheap, easy high is more often a fast-track ride to the hospital. It’s not worth it.
Mental health is not something to be meddled with. It’s not something that can be fixed by prayer or meditation or going to yoga or by thinking positively. It requires legitimate clinically supported psychological care. For some that may require a long-term in-patient program, for some, that may require an intensive outpatient program, and for some that may require weekly meetings with a therapist. The spiritual practices of prayer, meditation and yoga can and ought to be integrated into any therapeutic work but they are not the end all be all.
Stepping onto the path of recovery is about change. It’s about shifting one’s perspective and learning how to redefine and shift old paradigms so we can create new ones. We must first begin with our old thought patterns and old ideals, which are heavily ingrained in us. The older we are, the deeper the planting, and often the more difficult the change, though not impossible.
It is imperative that we seek help for our mental health needs when we need it. If we are confronted with clinical depression, anxiety, OCD, panic disorders, or PTSD, this is where a skilled psychologist or therapist or possibly a psychiatrist should come in. Bypassing it is dangerous and causes us more harm than it does good. Often times, we seek that magic bullet that will make everything just go away, but it doesn’t. We have to walk through it, or stumble through it, whatever the case may be.
I am reminded of my newcomer years: I was a mess. And when I say mess, I mean, a real mess. I was angry, resistant, but I was full of fire. I was ultimately convinced that I was going to be killed by my feelings (clearly, that didn’t happen!), and I would wax poetic dramatically that it was so. If it weren’t for people pulling me out of myself and into reality, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Part of that process was also learning to walk through my issues not around them, because wherever I went, they were right there with me, like a trusted companion, ready and willing to make my life miserable.
You don’t have to do this alone. In fact, you can’t. There is a network of mental health care that avails you and a network of support groups at the ready. One step at a time, one breath at time, one minute at time, recovery is possible. Mental health care is possible but one thing is for sure, the only way out is through.
Video game addiction: Like most things where addiction is in question, the behaviors and call signs are similar. There is an unquenchable desire for more, leading to irritability, anger, despondence, and isolation. Video game addiction isn’t a substance abuse disorder; it as a clinical impulse control disorder, similar to a gambling addiction. In other words, playing the game becomes a compulsive call to action. Role-playing games in particular can evolve into an addictive foe.
Meet George. He’s 13 and he is always seen plugged into a device. It could be an iPhone, or his desktop computer, but he is never without some kind of technical distraction. He’s been like this ever since I can remember—I think he got his first game around 6. As he’s gotten older, he has become more and more involved in the role-playing games online, locking himself away in a room with his headphones on so he can talk to his online “friends.” He is, however, completely anti-social when it comes to interacting with actual people. School is fraught with fights and suspensions, and parental communication is bereft of any real content or authority. At home, if there’s an opportunity for actual play, George will sneak off to play a video game—he did this once during a game of hide-and-seek, leaving his playmate hidden for an extended period of time. From the outside in, this looks troublesome—it IS troublesome–but George’s parents see it as keeping him occupied and engaged. Have we forgotten how to interact with our children? Have we made our own needs and external busyness more important than creating an emotional connection with our kids?
The current generation is the first “native” tech generation. They have never known a life without cell phones, a world without the Internet and its multitude of social media sites, or gaming and the varied choices in virtual realities. These things are just part of this generation’s day-to-day life. Our social environments have been forever changed, and sites like Facebook are often considered to be the sole vehicle for maintaining friendships. I won’t lie, I like that I am able to keep in touch with out-of-state friends because of Facebook. It certainly has its value. Online gaming can be fun. Lots of folks play online games on occasion, and often times, it’s harmless, but there are those (like George) who are seduced by the alluring cyber world of false reality and find themselves getting lost when the digital falsehood becomes more important than reality itself.
According to the Center for Online Addiction, these are the warning signs to look for:
Your child is playing video games for increasing amounts of time;
Thinking about gaming during other activities;
Gaming to escape from real-life problems, anxiety, or depression;
Lying from friends and family to conceal gaming;
Feeling irritable when trying to cut down on gaming.
They also suggest keeping note of the following and seeking help as soon as you recognize a problem brewing:
Log how often your child plays and for how long;
Problems arising out of gaming;
Your child’s reaction to time limits.
Treatment for video game addiction is similar to dealing with food addiction in that you have to learn how to live with it and use it responsibly. And you have to detox from the addiction itself by unplugging for a period of time. We are in a computer generation: we live and work on our computers, and if addiction is an issue, then we need to learn to change our relationships to them so we can use them responsibly. Now that we are inundated with technology, we have to learn how to safely navigate the broadly accessible world it’s created. Recovery is possible.
It creeps up on you, biding its time, weaving its way into your mind and body, wrecking your resolve, staining your spirit. It plays a game of cat and mouse, its talons elusive, its manipulation brilliant; it captures you like a rat in a cage. I want to say that we can prepare our teens for treatment, but once those talons of addiction are embedded, nothing sane makes sense until the talons are removed and the healing begins. Addiction effects more than the user: it affects the family as a whole, nuclear or otherwise; it doesn’t give two shakes of a lamb’s tail who you are, where you come from, your financial status, race, color, creed, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Addiction is a hopeless affair until you stand up to it and take the reigns of your life back. But that process takes work; it takes dedication; it takes a commitment to yourself, to your family, and to the world in which you live. It means looking at the ugly, dark, and terrifying thing in the recesses of your mind and body and naming it. It means recognizing the warrior within and ultimately dealing with whatever it is you’re running from. Something to note about drugs and alcohol: their numbing properties are merely a temporary Band-Aid for a much larger problem.
When a family comes to us, broken and scared, we understand the complex characteristics of what addiction does. It erodes trust, negatively impacts emotional safety, creates an environment fueled by fear and anger, and depletes the coping skills of the family as a whole. As a result, everyone is vulnerable. It is here where the work begins. Often, it is within that vulnerability where one finds the opening in the heart and mind that allows the healing to begin. We understand that the work of the family is layered: it requires honesty, and an ability to look at oneself; it requires willingness to separate your reactions to your child and to develop compassion; it requires a desire to forgive, and a desire to be forgiven. The treatment process allows for a new beginning, if you will, something many don’t ever have a chance to access. It’s an opportunity to recognize the warrior within—we all have one!
I can give you a million tools that may or may not prevent addiction from effecting your life, but the truth is, there’s no one way. For some, addiction is a something they are born with, for others, the spark is triggered by a traumatic event, and for others, it’s something unknown. As parents and support persons, it behooves us to let go of our laundry lists of the woulda-coulda-shouldas, and show up for our suffering teens. We can be supportive, we can get them help, we can love them in spite of their behavior, we can show them the meaning of unconditional love, and we can create safe, healthy boundaries for them and for ourselves. It’s not unlike an addict or alcoholic to push your every button to get a rise out of you, so boundaries are an imperative. Just because you’re showing support doesn’t mean you may continue to be a battering ram. You can love with boundaries: it’s not easy, but once you get the hang of it, your life will change for the better.
Try to remember to be kind to yourself as parents or kind to yourself as the teen in trouble. Allow the clinicians and supporting staff guide you back to wellness and stability. If there’s one thing that has stuck with me since I got sober it’s this: remain teachable. Once you think you know everything, you can’t learn anything new. Taking these early steps onto the recovery path is part of a letting-go process: we let go of what we think we know so we can learn a new way of living.
Allow yourself the opportunity to begin the healing process and embark on this path out of the darkness of addiction and be welcomed into the arms and support of the recovery community. With recovery comes grace and dignity, and those are qualities lacking in the addiction realm.