Your Teen Drug Addict on the Fringe

When a teen becomes an addict, that person you once knew and planned a future for has effectively checked out.  What you experience is an addict who will play you better than you can play them. After a period of time, your teen’s brain becomes progressively “hard-wired” to his or her drug of choice, to use a colloquial term.  Re-setting and adjusting their brains requires a period of abstinence, which is near impossible for young restless addicts without early intervention. 

Public detoxification is often available but short-term.  It is rarely enough without serious follow-up. As your teen’s addiction progresses, it is a matter of time before he or she ends up on the streets or in jail. Given the stress of having an addict in your house, either you or the addict will initiate a new chapter in your child’s addiction:  homelessness. Fathers tend to be hard-nosed and quiet about it, mothers often the opposite.

Early intervention and keeping them off the streets is the best scenario for young addicts. Teen drug users are a tough population to win over.  They will exhaust their family. Most parents will attempt intervention or treatment, but readily defer to their teen’s half-hearted contritions, wasting your time and your kid’s hope for early recovery.  A recurring catch-22! 

Ultimately, it is up to your teen addict to want this.  Just know that by the time they feel that sense of urgency or “bottom”, their addiction may have progressed too far for you to handle alone. In that sense, if professional intervention is not financially feasible it may be wise to hold your teen legally accountable for any criminality that arises, including legal accountability from a parent.  That is tough to ask of parents who would do anything to keep their kid out of jail. Unfortunately, if that lesson can’t be learned early enough, the advent of a more progressive addiction and criminality is a far bigger problem down the road. I once had admirable visions for my child. I let that go. Achieving sobriety is a remarkable objective. 

Our jail systems are a heavy consequence for a young addict.  Few addicts have funded diversion apply to their offences. Their criminality trumps their addiction.  Reform is emerging that will engage screening and address addiction as causal where appropriate and deal with the disease. The trend we are seeing is addiction becoming a public health issue.  It is a chronic liability to a public that wants accountability for the impact of addiction.

Consider this one single instance: I witnessed my own addicted family member imposing a cost to Los Angeles County treatment centers, jails and ER facilities of over $25,000 while living on the streets for less than a year.  What’s the overall impact when you factor in estimates of opiate, cocaine, methamphetamine and other types of drug addicts numbering roughly 4 to 7 million individuals nationwide and growing, depending on who you include in the classification of a drug addict? That’s worth getting a handle on, not only for our immediate well-being but for the nation as a whole.


The Partnership is excited to welcome new blogger Dr. Libby Cataldi!  She is an educator and mother of two sons. Dr. Cataldi is the author of Stay Close: A Mother’s Story of Her Son’s Addiction.

A mother wrote to me: I’m giving up on prayer, I’m afraid.  Recovery was going well, I thought. He was attending meetings, had a new job he likes, nice girlfriend…I was beginning to trust and hope again. In the last week, money was taken from my purse, he relapsed, and violated his probation. Now it’s back to court and maybe prison this time. I can’t do this again.

My Reflection:  Hope is fragile and fear is powerful. I wonder why fear seems to be stronger than hope? I don’t know, but I do know that there are times when I felt like giving up on prayer. Sometimes it’s easier to lose hope and faith than to try to keep feeling them and being crushed. When the addiction rises up again and again, and smacks us, knocking us to the ground, we hurt and don’t know what to do. It is then that we are in danger of giving up hope. But if we lose faith and hope, all is lost. We need to stay close to our children, but our children need to fight their own battles.

Today’s Promise: I am only human and sometimes I feel as though I can’t go on. But I will. I will go on in hope.

“We can’t be armor for our children. We can only be supporting troops.” Irwin Shaw

Coping With Family Tragedies: Divorce, Addiction & Suicide From a Teens Perspective

Teenager, Chase Block, faced a lot at an early age – his parent’s divorce, his mother’s drug addiction and later, her tragic suicide. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Chase wrote a book about his experiences in hopes of helping other teens. While his book offers practical, mature, no-nonsense advice for young people, it has something for parents, too — a unique window into the mind of today’s teens.

I was a 13-year-old kid growing up in Jacksonville, Florida, when I decided I wanted to help other kids whose parents were divorcing.  My own folks split when I was 6, and then had other relationships, marriages and divorces. I felt I could help my friends learn what to expect when they were facing similar family shifts.

I decided to write a book of practical tips and advice on how to survive divorce – from a kid’s perspective. The day before I actually began working with an editor on the book, my mom killed herself.

My beautiful, wonderful mom, who was dearly loved by everyone, lost her decades-long battle with mental illness, addiction to pills, and alcoholism. She took her own life eight years after she and my dad split up. I was shocked and confused – but I didn’t want to forget the book. As horrible as I felt, I knew other kids would go through this stuff too, and maybe my story could help them.

It wasn’t easy to talk about everything I was going through.  Now that my book, Chasing Happiness: One Boy’s Guide to Helping Other Kids Cope with Divorce, Parental Addictions and Death, is published, I’m hearing from people, like parents and teachers, who are so glad other kids can check it out.

I talk about the shock of my mom’s suicide, my grief and guilt, and my own suicidal thoughts. The biggest thing I learned, both from my parents’ divorce and my mom’s death, is that you can’t do it alone. Family, friends, teachers, therapists, hobbies — all have their place in helping kids work through the tough spots.

By the age of 14, I had gone through challenges that people twice my age couldn’t imagine. Now I want to help kids dealing with their parents’ divorce, drug addiction, suicide, or any personal tragedy.  My message isn’t, “Look at how horrible this is,” but, “Here’s what I learned, and how I learned it. I want to share this information with you.”

I also hope to let people know kids today are pretty smart.

We know a lot more than adults give us credit for.  We usually already know the stuff you try to hide from us. Just ask us! We really appreciate straight talk and not just pretending that what’s happening right in front of us isn’t there.

If I could tell other kids one thing, it would be that I hope you never have to go through really hard times. But, if you do, please know you’re not alone — you can make it through and you can make a difference.

As for adults, after you read this, I hope you’ll never ignore our emotions, or think we don’t feel things as deeply as grownups because we’re not acting the way you think an upset or depressed person should. Don’t confuse ‘young’ with ‘clueless.’ We’re more intelligent, worldly, stressed out, and plugged in than you guys were at our age.

We need your help, and we also need your respect.

It’s Just a Sip

The journey of raising a teen is fraught with challenges. Not only is his natural development tricky, but a teens world is filled with societal influences of all kinds, alcohol being just one.

Alcohol is on everyone’s minds: Tweens and teens want to try it, and parents want to keep it away. It is a concern at every turn. And while there is much to consider when it comes to teens and alcohol, parents remain tremendously influential in the choices their kids will make and habits they develop when it comes to alcohol.

Take the seemingly innocent request, Can I have a sip? You’re at your family dinner table; the children have milk or water, and mom and dad have a glass of chardonnay. Jeremy, age 14, asks the above, and Dad thinks, Heck, its just a sip. Why not? Its not a big deal. Maybe 12-year-old Amanda asks Can I have the last drop of your beer? Dad thinks, There’s nothing left, really. Only a drop. No harm.

Truth be told, the lessons about alcohol consumption that are the most powerful may just be the ones that are not accompanied by a wagging finger and a tongue lashing. It is the small, accumulated lessons about drinking that add up to make a difference. Allowing your underage child a sip of your wine or that last drop of your beer is a small but potent message. It says a little taste of alcohol is okay. It is approval.

Here’s what we know: Except for anything sweet or completely bland, humans develop a taste for everything else. This includes alcohol. Any 4-year-old tastes alcohol and exclaims, Yuck! But Mommy and Daddy and grown-ups drink it, so it becomes the forbidden fruit and therefore, desirable. Even if its yucky, the child often tries to sample that fruit. And every time the child is allowed to sample it, the taste becomes more familiar and more tolerable. Sooner or later the child who once thought beer was disgusting now has a taste for it, just like Daddy does.

Here is the truth: Allowing your child to sample your alcohol is against the law. Every time you allow your child to have that last drop, you are in essence giving him the message that you don’t respect the law. So why should he respect the drinking age, if you don’t? Daddy doesn’t think its any big deal, so why should I?

In the course of everyday life, parents have countless opportunities to practice what they preach, to walk the walk, in little ways and big. And it is those little sips that give rise to the big gulps.

WIN a free copy of You’re Not the Boss of Me, a book by bestselling author Betsy Brown Braun

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