Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How do you play a winning hand when you're not the one holding the cards?

... Here's guest blogger Morgan... telling it like it is in a "blended" home...

Maintaining control is something many people struggle with. Especially when it comes to your children. It’s one thing when your child becomes out of control, defies your rules and your authority, but what do you do when there is a third, or even a fourth, person in the picture? That’s our situation and to say that it’s hard would be the understatement of the year.

We have finally managed to get my stepson into a treatment facility. It’s not the one or the length we wanted, but we figured that any treatment was better than no treatment. We feel he needs a long term, residential treatment. His psychologist thinks he needs long term, residential treatment. The insurance company doesn’t. They think he needs a 3-week detox program, despite the fact that he’s most likely been clean for over a month. And since we are at the mercy of what the insurance company is willing to approve (we don’t have a money tree growing in our backyard), they are calling the shots. They are holding the cards on this one.

So now we are playing the waiting game, crossing our fingers that this child wakes up and this program, despite its brief length, has some effect on whatever it is that he is going through. We are hopeful that the doctors there too, will agree, that long term, residential care is what’s in this child’s best interest and we can simply transfer him there at the end of 21 days.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if the insurance company still decides they know what’s best for this boy and send him home? If that’s the case, his father and I, we are still not the ones holding the cards. Mom is.

Just to refresh you, we have a blended family. My husband, myself, my stepson, and his mother and stepfather, whom with he currently lives. My husband and I are the evil disciplinarians, his mother is Glenda the good witch, queen of Disneyland.

So again, we are left feeling like the odd man out, powerless to have influence and help create change. It’s heart wrenching to see your children suffer and appear so lost, especially within themselves. But it’s even worse if you’re watching that from the sidelines, witnessing someone else essentially give them permission to take those wrong turns that ultimately lead to those bad decisions that have gotten him where he is today.

I know the “What if?” questions are futile and crazy-making, but its hard not to have them. What if mom thinks that going away, for however long, is going to “fix” him and when he returns home, he’ll be “normal”? How do you treat a “normal” kid? You give them freedom and the ability to make their own choices and decisions - ALL of the things that have aided in this child being where he is now - a drug treatment program.

I am very aware that we all play a part, that everyone has their role. What I need to continually remind myself of, however, is that’s all we can control - our own role, our own part. What all this really boils down to is fear. Uncertainty is scary, especially for those who like to be in control.  Currently, we wait, not knowing what will happen, unable to control the outcome. And when you’re talking about someone’s life, a child’s life - that is beyond scary. 

As Val has said previously, ...worrying, questioning, and relentless searching for answers has taken me nowhere good. It has hijacked my mind and shaken my resolve. AND - it’s exhausting! So I’m stopping. I cannot control the situation and therefore will accept the cards I am dealt. I will trust that in the end, whatever is meant to be, will be. I am responsible for me, and only me, and in this case, being out of control is a good thing.

Morgan: a gentle reminder from one control freak to another (Lol)... letting go of control is something we have to remind ourselves of constantly. Sometimes every hour on the hour, or even every 30 seconds... at least that's how it works for me. Hugs, girlfriend...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getting in the know

She told me something I did not want to hear. She said, "He is beyond the help I can offer him, and I think we might be dealing with an addiction here." 

What??? No way. I said this to myself. I probably said something to that effect to her as well.

Then, I walked away from her. She obviously did NOT know what she was talking about. We would manage this, and we would be fine.

That lasted about a week. The managing and being fine. Then, "things" (as they tend to do in this situation) managed to get worse. Not greatly worse, but worse, nonetheless.

So, we signed our son up for IOP. We knew this was a step in the right direction. He wasn't exactly happy. The limits had been set. Things were going to get better now. 

The following week, they got worse. Gravely worse. Very quickly, things were spiraling out of control. All the sudden, we had lots of new things in our lives. Things like...
  1. Police activity for drug possession
  2. School suspension for both boys
  3. Possible expulsion for one
  4. General and exhausting watchfulness on the part of both parents
  5. Finding various drug paraphernalia hidden around the house
  6. Kids not listening to any house rule
  7. General mayhem touching every facet of our lives
  8. Me feeling like I was going crazy, one little piece at a time
  9. Boys living in a tent in the backyard, which was advised by our IOP counselor, the police, and our therapist
  10. The school reporting us to CPS... for our boys living in a tent
I guess, for me, this was the beginning of the end. The end of protecting my son in the name of being a managing mother. I found out this is called Enabling. The end of attempting to "look-the-other-way". This was a grave family problem, and something I had to face head on. The end of allowing other people to call the shots. I had to get real with what was happening to our family, and I had to do it quick.

I had to get in the know about dealing with this Ugly Elephant that had moved into our lives: addiction.

February 9th marks the one year anniversary that our son was removed from our home in the middle of the night, and sent into treatment for drug addiction. It is a bittersweet anniversary. For him, he is devastated that he's been away from home for a whole year, though he understands the reason why, and continues to work his program with determination so he can return home. For me, it is one year of him being drug free, and giving his brain a chance to heal, and regrow new brain tissue - one of the best chances of him making a full recovery from drug addiction. It is one year of us asking questions, and finding the necessary answers to get him the help he's so desperately needed. It is one year spent in putting our family back on the right track at home, healing our hearts from all the hurt that drugs caused, and knowing he is safe and getting help while living apart from us. 

Never have I faced as much resistance and rejection as I have in the last year, much of it within my own heart. Dealing with this bully called drug addiction has put a new spin on my life. I have reached deeply to find my way through this, both within myself, and to others who have walked this path. It hasn't been easy. I am now more educated about drug and alcohol addiction. I know more now about brain health. I know the necessary steps for dealing with a wayward teen. And, I am a more compassionate person than I was one year ago. It's taken me a year of learning, and soul searching, but I am happy to report that I am in the know now.

And it's right where I want to be.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Denial = Not my child

You are the adult, and you know that you are smarter than your teen. You have been there, and been "through it" so you know you will have the upper hand when the time is right. "He's too young to be experimenting with that." and, "My kids aren't like those other kids." "My kid doesn't do _______, we have always talked about staying away from __________ in our family!"

As adults, we have more things on our minds than our teens do. We have jobs, our car maintenance, get the dog to the vet, grocery shopping, clean house, etc... and that's just this morning. Your teen has one thing on his mind, and that is to push the limits you set, and get away with it. All the while making you look crazy in the process. Picture the look on your teens face... (wide eyed, you are cray cray!, who me?) while they lash out at you in every way, shape, form imaginable to tell you that you are SO messed up in thinking that way.

Their grades have fallen, their attitude is arrogant, and (s)he takes a "know-it-all" tone with everyone they come in contact with, including teachers and authority figures. They seem to have lost their motivation, for everything except their friends and social networking. They stay up late, ignoring any curfew you set, you are never quite sure when they went to bed. They sleep in late. You suspect they may have been sneaking out at night. You suspect they've been drinking, or worse. Are their eyes dilated? Are they acting funny??? You suspect you are going cray cray...

 Selections taken from Will Wooten's book, "Bring Your Teen Back From the Brink";
Parental denial of the problem is a very powerful tool that kids use to their advantage. You think this is a problem that will just go away because you tell them to stop. Somehow things just keep getting worse. Navigating normal teen behavior is challenging enough. Throw alcohol or drugs into the mix and you have a toxic combination that compounds the turmoil. Left unaddressed, it will leave your family in crisis for years to come.
If you suspect trouble with your teen that involves substance and/or alcohol abuse, the first thing you must do is stop living in denial. If you are doubtful, there is a strong possibility you have a reason to be suspicious. Listen to your gut (heart) on this, and take action before your teen can travel any further down this destructive path. Talk to a substance abuse counselor. Buy a book and get some concrete answers. Will's book is a great place to start. Buy it today and start finding some answers to the dark doubts that are swirling around in your head. You will absolutely not want to wait until tomorrow, to see what your teen will be up to next. I can guarantee one thing: it will not be pretty.