Adolescence Mental Health Recovery School

School Is Back In Session!

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Despite the heat, School is back in session, marking the end of the Dog Days of Summer. It’s time to leave the sandy beaches behind and hone in on your academic prowess. If you left school in a state of emotional disarray because of substance abuse, mental illness, or both, this is your opportunity to revamp your experience. Sure, the wreckage of your past will be there, but the opportunity to shift the perspectives of those you encounter is available to you. You can clean up the mess, so to speak. The bigger question is how does one traverse the landscape of school…sober?  Here are some tips:


  • Continue to go to meetings and work with a sponsor: This is your lifeline to sustainability in sobriety. 
  • Join a sober club or start one if there isn’t one already!
  • Make new friends—your using buddies have to go.  You are changing your life for the better: find friends who have the same moral fiber as you.
  • Ask for help. It’s a sign of courage and strength to reach out. If a subject is too hard, or if you have difficulty with a teacher or assignment, advocate for yourself.  Suffering needlessly benefits no one.
  • Get excited about school. Education is the ultimate brain food!
  • Follow your dreams! Going to school is the first step to reaching them. Give it your all!
  • Make your emotional and physical wellness a priority. Meetings, therapy, and self-care: those are all supportive tools. Use them.

While going back to school can be met with apprehension, despair, excitement, joy, and even complacency, meeting those emotions with some compassion and openness can make them easier to work with. Changing your lifestyle, perspectives, and emotional temperature takes effort, but it is well worth it in the end. Choosing to be present and awake for your life is a true gift. Approaching school with curiosity and an open mind will make a difference in your life. Try it!

Adolescence Bullying Communication Mental Health Parenting School Social Anxiety Stress

Time to Stop the Bullies

It hurts to be bullied. It hurts the spirit and the body, the confidence and self-worth. No one should have to live in that kind of fear or circumstance. So what are we going to do about it?

With the advent of the internet, bullying’s primary setting isn’t merely in schools and playgrounds anymore: it also thrives in the technological halls of the cyber world. It’s pervasive. There are two types of bullies:  popular, well-connected with social power, overly concerned about maintaining that popularity, and liking to be in charge. The second type tends to be the kid who is more isolated from their peers, easily pressured, has low self-esteem, is less involved in school and doesn’t easily identify with the emotions or feelings of others.

Those at risk of being bullied are kids who are perceived as separate or different from the norms or social mores of our culture. They are often seen as weak, they tend to be anxious or depressed, they are less popular, and are often viewed as annoying or provocative. As a result, these kids are more susceptible to falling prey to bullying behaviors, behaviors which aren’t always as black and white as we once thought. Here are some examples:

Physical bullying:

  • Hitting/kicking/ pinching
  • Spitting
  • Pushing/Tripping
  • Intentionally breaking someone’s things;
  • Making mean or rude hand gestures.

Verbal bullying:

  • Name calling: weirdo, freak, fag, idiot, ad infinitum.
  • Teasing
  • Threats to cause harm

Social bullying:

  • Leaving someone out on purpose;
  • Telling others not to be friends with someone;
  • Rumor spreading;
  • Public humiliation.

Cyber bullying:

  • Mean text messages or emails;
  • Rumors sent by email or posted on social media sites;
  • Fake profiles on sites like Facebook, Tumblr, et cetera.
  • Embarrassing photos or videos

Keep in mind, the most reported bullying happens on school grounds: in the hallways and on recess yards. It also occurs travelling to and from school. But nothing is really sacred. Cyber bullying is growing like wildfire as kids become increasingly savvy with technology.

It’s common for kids who are being bullied not to tell anyone because they may be afraid of the vengeful repercussions from the bullies themselves. Bullying is, in its very nature, a power structure built on dominance and fear-driven control. When someone is being terrorized by fearful tactics, it takes an incredible amount of courage to seek help. In the mind of the bullied, it’s a risk they are not always willing to take, so instead, the fear gets internalized, making its appearance in various ways:

  • Unexplained injuries;
  • Lost or damaged possessions;
  • Frequent headaches, stomachaches, feeling sick or faked illnesses;
  • Changes in eating habits: some may skip meals, some may binge. Some kids might come home hungry because their lunch was bullied away from them;
  • Sleep disturbances: insomnia or nightmares;
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, not wanting to go to school at all;
  • Loss of friends or avoidance of social situations;
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self-esteem;
  • Self-destructive behaviors: self-harming, running away, isolating, suicidal ideation.

Despite the fact that many schools have implemented anti-bullying policies, the administration doesn’t always carry them out in the most effective ways. I’ve experienced a principal in my son’s school who typically punishes the victim along with the bully, creating situation of victim-blaming, which encourages the bully and fundamentally creates shame in the bullied. In this particular case, a child ended up reverting inward and internalizing the fear, ultimately trying to handle it on his own. As a result, the persistent concern about being called a snitch or weak drove this child’s efforts toward self-directed management of the situation. Unfortunately, this is a perfect situation for the bully, and in many ways, this maintains the bully’s position of control. Not surprisingly, the bullying hasn’t stopped.

As parents, we need to find safe, productive ways to stop bullying behaviors. We can:

  • Work with the teacher to help raise awareness in the classroom. There are activities geared toward educating  kids
  • Make regular appearances at the school. Sometimes, the mere presence of a parent can stop bullying in its tracks.
  • Get up to speed on those social networking sites and explore safer ways to navigate technology
  • Find ways to present a unified front against bullying.
  • Establish an anti-bullying task force or committee. There’s power in numbers.
  • Help establish an environment of tolerance, acceptance of others, and respect.

This is also a great opportunity to take your kids to see Bully or go see it yourself if you can. It’s a limited engagement, but one you don’t want to miss. Time to take charge and stop bullying in its tracks.

For more information and for resources, check out:


Challenge Day


Back to School: Let’s Get This Party Started!

School has started, though the remnants of the Summer heat are still lingering about. It’s also prime time for the first of many anticipated school parties! For the newly sober, and even for those with a little time under their belts, this might be a source of contention or stress. So, how DO you participate while staying safe and sober?
For starters:
  • Bring a friend with you that has your best interests in mind. In other words, someone who isn’t on the fence about you being clean and sober! 
  • Arrange for your own transportation so you don’t have to rely on someone else if you want to make a quick exit. 
  • Have a plan, and give yourself an out so you don’t get stuck in a bad situation.
  • Call your sponsor and let your sober network know what you’re doing: Share your plan!
  • Communicate with your parents and let them know what’s going on.
  • Concerned there won’t be any non-alcoholic beverages? Bring your own! 
The trouble with school parties is, often times they’re organized with this idea that getting wasted is the end goal (I’m reminded of Superbad here, despite it’s over-the-top depiction of adolescence!). If a school party falls into your weekend plans, go with a good head on your shoulders and a positive plan of action. Walking a sober path is a learned skill, but it’s not impossible. It takes time to develop positive patterns of behavior while still maintaining our social status amongst our peers. Sometimes, it’s a matter of educating those around us; sometimes it’s about walking away and starting anew.

Sobriety will teach you that fun doesn’t have to include a blackout and a night praying to the porcelain God. Nor does it have to include glib confirmations of the night’s events from friends the next day. Eventually, taking responsibility for your actions will be the de rigueur choice rather than fighting to maintain an old ideal. At some point, you might even discover that you are pretty darn fun all on your own, even whilst pumped up on silliness with a water chaser. 
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