Adolescence

The Rocky Ride of Adolescence

Entering adolescence is serious business; adolescent-drug-recovery-californiait evokes rapid change and confusion for parents and teens alike. From a parenting perspective, sometimes it seems your child is suddenly unrecognizable. From the teen perspective, the sudden physiological and emotional changes are confusing and perhaps even frightening at times. There can be an internalization of, “What is happening to me” but sharing that would be significantly “uncool,” or so it seems.

 

We know that adolescence is a time of great transformation. Teens are individuating, their hormones are raging, and things are moving faster than even they can grasp. Try and remember what it was like when YOU were a teenager. Do you remember how you felt?

 

This generation of teens is faced with even higher pressure. I have seen parents pressuring their elementary kids to perform better for the sake of college, or the perception of prestige. I have had a 13-year-old tell me they she was having an existential crisis – that she didn’t know what she was going to do with her life – all because of parental pressure to look toward college. Between parental pressures and the sheer nature of adolescent metamorphosis, the teen years can be intense.

 

But does adolescence have to be as disruptive?

 

Can we as parents take things less personally and develop a healthy way to show up for our teens? Yes, I believe we can. It requires that we educate ourselves in the ways of adolescence, and it also involves remembering and holding space for our own adolescent experience, without projecting it onto our teens.  This may mean getting involved in a support group, or seeing a therapist and beginning the transformative process of unraveling any traumatized roots within oneself. Allow your teen to have their own adolescent experience rather than interpreting it as your own. You are not your teen’s experience; you are a guide and a representative of safety and security.

 

If you find yourself in a situation where your adolescent is perpetuating harmful behavior via drugs and alcohol, or if they are displaying significant emotional dysregulatory behavior, it’s important that you seek help.  There’s adolescent angst and then there’s addiction and mental health issues. There’s help if you need it.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Addiction and Mental Health: Inspired by David Sheff

We recently had the opportunity to hear David Sheff, author of “Beautiful Boy” and “Clean“, speak about addiction and mental health at UCLA’s Friends of the Semel Institute’s Open Mind series.  recoverypathSheff is a journalist, and New York Times best-selling author who writes and speaks about addiction and recovery though the lens of a parent and as a well-researched journalist. Our family program is dedicated to approaching recovery from the eyes of the addict and those within the family system. David Sheff reminded me of the parental side of addiction and mental health that we don’t always hear.

 

Our kids are our babies: we see them as our innocent, silly, curious, innocent offspring. When it comes to addiction and mental health issues, parents often hang on to this ideology, telling themselves, “Not OUR kids. Addiction and mental health issues happen to other families.”  There is a natural contradiction that occurs, marking the innocence parents seek to hold on to and the utter despair and devastation that is actually taking place.  Addiction and mental health could care less about your financial status, race, religion, or gender, or age.  What David Sheff does is talk about it. He names the elephant in the room. He invites parents to face the shadow side of addiction and mental health and bring it into the fore. He challenges us as a culture to unabashedly squash the stigma associated with addiction and mental health.

 

This stigma I’m talking about increases the suffering families experience around addiction and mental health. It inhibits one’s ability to move through the processes required to heal. If worry and concern about what people migt say hangs over the head of a family, how willing will they be to do the work? How frequently will they suffer in silence? How long will they go before asking for help? Shame is the muzzle of addiction.

 

Sheff pointed out some staggering facts:

 

  • 80% of children will try drugs or alcohol before age 18.
  • Addiction is the #3 killer
  • The #1 reason teens use drugs: Stress
  • 90% of addictions begin before 21
  • Only 6% of pediatricians are able to recognize drug use
  • There are 3000 addiction informed physicians and over 3 million addicts

 

But he also reminds us of this: these kids who are suffering from addiction and mental health issues aren’t bad kids; they are our kids. The focus needs to be on what is causing the use of drugs and alcohol, not the drugs and alcohol themselves.  Kids are using because of stress, anxiety, social situations, trauma, et cetera. Our kids live in an environment that resembles a pressure cooker. I teach yoga to teens and tweens and I can tell you from my experiences with my students, the main reason they are there is because of stress and anxiety. And part of my work with them is teaching them tools for self-regulation.

These kids, our kids, need a reprieve from their overwhelm. Sure, drugs might offer a quick fix, but they don’t offer a solution. The solution has to come in the form of recovery, stress management and developing healthier means of self-regulation that allow for a better approach to being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out.  If there are addiction or issues of mental health, it becomes imperative to give them a voice. Shame keeps us silent. Shame keeps us sick. Shame increases our suffering.

 

Dr. Tim Fong, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA also had some salient things to say that evening, but one that really strikes home is this.  Families need the following 4 things for recovery:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

I encourage parents to seek help if they recognize that their child is in trouble. You are not alone in your fear, your suffering, or your need to be heard. Your child needs to be seen and heard as well, and the sooner you can get them the help they need, the sooner the recovery process can begin. Remember this: if your child has some hiccups in their recovery, YOUR recovery doesn’t have to hiccup as well.

 

I will leave you with this, a quote from Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides.”

Enhanced by Zemanta

An Intensive Family Program Promotes Healing the Family System

Visions knows that a family in crisis needs requires an intensive family program. LiveGrowIt 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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Accepting Your LGBT Teen

Identifying as an LGBT teen

English: Rainbow flag flapping in the wind wit...for the first time is a courageous, albeit scary leap toward self-acceptance. Often times, one embarks on this leap with great trepidation, avoiding conflict with aversive family and friends while creating a whirlwind of conflict within. In cases where there is little to no familial support, this process can really be challenging. We have hosted several LGBT youth in our programs and we offer them a wide variety of support while also encouraging them to be unabashedly who they are.

 

I asked Joseph Rogers, one of our teachers and the Education Coordinator at our Day School, to identify some ways to support LGBT teens in their recovery. Joseph says,

“I think one of the most important aspects of recovery for an LGBT teen is the availability of LGBT meetings. Additionally, it is important for LGBT youth to develop a mentor relationship with someone who has dealt with the challenges of growing up as an LGBT youth in American society. LGBT youth, like all young people who get sober, need to see that there is a life beyond drugs and alcohol; that there is a life to be had and a life to be built.”

 

Some other challenges LGBT youth often face is familial discord and deep resistance to a sexual identity different from the family’s perspective on societal norms.  Often times, families are more concerned about what others thing rather than focusing on what their teen needs. When I asked Garth LeMaster, MA, LMFT, and therapist at our Outpatient Program about what parents can do in order to support their teen, he said,

“The most important thing for a parent to do is get support for any feelings that may arise.  The kid may be dealing with enough regarding their feelings, so parents must provide a safe place for them to land.  If they do not, they make like infinitely more difficult for the kid and can seriously damage the relationship.”

 

A component of our treatment programs are our family support groups and we offer them to parents throughout their teen’s treatment. These groups are a terrific resource for parents to use and lean into. They can provide the group support necessary to help parents unravel the tangle of emotional difficulties they may be experiencing. It’s also beneficial for parents who are having difficulty accepting their LGBT teen to have individual therapy, which facilitate a deeper unraveling and investigation of the root causes of resistance.

 

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) shared incredible statistics about the connection between familial support and the betterment of behavioral health. SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) announced their new resource “A Practioner’s Resource Guide:  Helping Families to Support Their LGBT Children,” which can be downloaded for free. The statistics show LGBT teens with low or no family support, who experience rejection instead of acceptance were:

  • 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide
  • 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression
  • 3.4 times more likely to use illicit drugs; and
  • 3.4 times more likely to report having engaged in unprotected sex—

Compared with peers from families that reported no or low levels of family rejection.

Family acceptance helps:

  • Protect against depression, suicidal behavior and substance abuse;
  • Promote self-esteem, social support, and overall health.

 

LGBT teens faced with this inner conflict can often feel like outcasts, castigated for not being like “everyone else,” and challenged to conform. If we as a community can provide support for your LGBT teen, we can help normalize the transition from feeling apart from to feeling a part of a community.

 

Creating a safe, supportive space for a teen coming to grips with their sexual identity is a necessary component in allowing them to land on both feet in their recovery and in their process of self-acceptance. Showing our kids that they are loved and cared for, regardless of who they are, is an invaluable gift we can give our kids.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Prescription Drugs: The New Gateway Drugs

Prescription drugs are one of the easiest drugs to obtain.

Ritalin

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

 

Stay aware. Tap into the multitude of resources like SAMHSA, Partnership for a DrugFree America, and the Medicine Abuse Project for more information and free pamphlets. If you suspect your child is abusing prescription drugs or any drugs, seek help.

 

Resources for this blog:

Partnership for Drug Free America

Medicine Abuse Project

Educate Before You Medicate

Dispose My Meds

FDA

Enhanced by Zemanta

5 Challenging Teen Behaviors: Parenting With Awareness

Parenting a teenager is no walk in the park. They are hard-wired to defy, irritate, be irritated,rebel,question, and be dramatic; what better way for a human being to learn how to be authentically who they are, right? As a parent, however, those adolescent behaviors can be frustrating and overwhelming. A key component to working with this behavior is creating good boundaries. Setting really clear boundaries shows teens they are safe.   Here are 5 challenging teen behaviors and suggestions for healthy parenting responses:   1:  Oh the Drama! Everyone is horrible and out to get them, life is full of …

Affluenza: A Disguise for Alcoholism and Substance Abuse

The news is rife with the term “Affluenza,” which was recently used as a defense for a 16-year-old Texas teen* accused of killing 4 people in a drunk driving case. Instead of jail time, he was sentenced to 10 years of probation, presenting an interesting perspective on what can happen when parents don’t set boundaries, create limits, or teach accountability. For those who don’t know, the term “Affluenza” is a term coined by John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann and economist Thomas H. Naylor, authors of the book Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic.   When speaking to John Lieberman, Director …

Healthy Boundaries Make for Healthy Teens

What steps can you take to ensure that you aren’t in violation of someone’s boundaries? For example, not everyone enjoys being hugged, nor is it always appropriate to express that level of touch. From the perspective of a teacher or a therapist, one must understand the innate power differential that exists between teacher and student or therapist and client. One is looking to the other for advice and pedagogic elucidation, and one is holding the power to elicit such information. We therefore need to be thoughtful in our approach to employing touch in these situations.   In a therapeutic environment …

Cyberbullying And Teens: The Facts

We’ve recently talked about text bombing and sexting, with the overlying arc being cyberbullying. It is defined as pervasive, relational aggression, also known as “covert aggression.” It is carried out via the use of electronic technology, such as cell phones, computers, and tablets by means of text messages, social media sites, and online “chatting.” For example, someone may create an online rumor by posting an embarrassing, or inflammatory image or story on social media or in an email. Because it’s online, it has the capacity to spread much faster and have a longer reach.  Cyberbullying intimidates its victims with its …

What You Need to Know About Sexting

Sexting is the act of sending sexually explicit photographs or messages via your cell phone.   The Internet is a vast, unchartered space. Technology has expanded so much that our means of communication has forever changed to include text messaging, emailing, instant messaging, video calling, and emailing. As a result, we are faced with things like sexting. One of the most troublesome things about sexting is its wide reach. A text message can circulate remarkably fast and beyond the control of its original sender.   A recent study has shown the following: 20 percent of teenagers (22 percent of girls …

Page 1 of 3123