Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Discharge is planned for next week. The treatment facility has been supportive and has held multiple team treatment meetings throughout my daughters stay. Can you really prepare for such an event though? As parents often say, "There is no rule book for raising children." There certainly is not a rule book for dealing with a 14 year old who is addicted to rugs and alcohol.

We have been granted several passes for part of or a whole day the past week. Sarah is excited, positive and ready to move on to this new adventure of teenage life without the influence of mind altering chemicals. I am terrified. Sure I have the hope and belief in my beautiful daughter, but as a Mom who has traveled down this long road, I can never be too lax. I must, if I want to keep my daughter safe, keep an ever vigilant eye. Isn't that what all parents do though?Any parent who cares for their child whether the Mom looking after their toddler who is now getting into everything and you find yourself locking more cabinets and child proofing everything in sight, or a Mother of a newly admitted college graduate who worries about how their now, adult/child is adjusting. My Mom tells me every time I speak with her that she still worries about me.

With discharge right around the corner, I worry, and prepare the best I can. That's what a Mom does. It's my job.
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Monday, March 24, 2008


As with any change there is a period of adjustment. It has been such a monumental change for Sarah to go from having her teenage independence of going to school and hanging out with her friends to the close confines of locked doors and being watched every hour of the day. Although the biggest change of all has been that she no longer has the option or ability to use any drugs whatsoever.

This time of adjustment goes for the family at home as well. I have taken the last 5 weeks in stride, adjusting along with my husband and older daughter. I may not be able to see her everyday, but I talk to her each night on the phone, and meet with her and her counselor and psychiatrist once a week or sometimes once every two weeks. And now that she has been there over 30 days and proven herself to be more reliable she has been given passes for several hours at a time. As a Mom, I have worried, worried, worried some more and then obsessed over how my daughter is doing. Most days I get up, get going, and remain positive, other days don;t go as smoothly.

It has been more than two weeks since my last post. My heart is heavy and tears flow often. The smallest of things, remind me of this long, twisted road we are traveling. Every evening when I talk to Sarah, I remind her of how very proud I am. She shows an endless amount of patience, understanding and courage in facing her problems and attacking new goals with fervor. I have no doubt that my daughter will continue to grow and learn. She has all the desire ever needed to make her dreams come true. Times may be trying but it only serves to show how adversity can strengthen our resolve.

Sarah is missing her family, friends and home, adjusting to medications that make her feel tired and learning each day how her lack of impulse control has put her life at risk. These medications for Bipolar disorder, that help to balance her symptoms of mania, give her a feeling of being "down". Her mind and body are used to all that boundless energy. Side effects such as increased appetite and weight gain are among the few more unpleasant experiences Sarah has expressed. In the last 5 weeks she has gained 10 pounds. As you can imagine for any teenage girl, gaining weight in this day and age of bone thin models on TV and in magazines, it's difficult to live up to the image. Yet again, she amazes me how she looks at the positive and tells me that she will choose healthier foods and try to exercise more.

When facing the choice of placing your own child in a residential treatment center, many concerns abound, not the least of which are who are these doctors and nurses who will be caring for my daughter day and night. After meeting with several of them and feeling more confident, I then can focus my energies in other places, like my husband and my older daughter who have a felt a bit neglected.

With one daughter at home and the other living in rehab, jealously rears it's ugly head at times. Sarah of course feels jealous of her sister being able to go to school, see her friends and have the freedom to live her life as an average teenager would. On the other hand my older daughter sometimes feels jealous when she sees the extra attention her sister receives. In her eyes there is more talk around the home of concerns for Sarah than for herself. I take the time each day to remind her how much I love her and that I am here for her, as always.

In addition to the older daughter feeling the stress of these times, so is my marriage. It is natural for any marriage to have it's ups and downs. Even more so to feel the weight of worry for our youngest who is struggling. While Sarah learns coping skills and attends treatment meetings and counseling sessions, my husband and I are left to our own devices here at home. There are days when I feel so overwhelmed with anxiety that I do, indeed, neglect others in my life who need me.

As I write this I am reminded once again how everything seems to come back to education. Not only do we need to learn about drugs, addiction and the effects on the body and lifestyle of our loved one who is addicted, but we must also learn how to care for ourselves. The facility that we chose not only tends to the needs of their residents but to the whole family. They give us the opportunity to come and have a family session with our daughter and her therapist and to meet with the entire treatment team every two weeks, so that we can be kept up to date on Sarah's most recent accomplishments as well as ongoing difficulties.

It is at times like these that we learn from the counselors and doctors what we as a family can do not only to help Sarah but to strengthen the family as a unit in times of crisis. On this last family therapy meeting the counselor helped my husband and I to see that our parenting styles being so different will have adverse effects on Sarah's resolve to stay clean when she comes home. We are learning that we can embrace our differences so that our children can see it is not only OK to argue but healthy for the children to see us engage in constructive criticism and then come to an agreement that considers everyone, and that everyone can accept.

We are growing as a family. The term growing pains comes to mind. It is a struggle. It is no where near easy, but we are managing the best we can. We are taking the time to learn to adjust here at home, just as Sarah is adjusting and learning there. We all know this is only the beginning of a long road to not only helping her to keep her safe and healthy but to build stronger and healthier relationships in our family.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What Can You Do To Help?

Education is the first step towards preventing drug abuse in our children. Educate yourself. Educate your family. Do you know the warning signs? Do you talk to your kids? Do you really know what's going on in their lives? How well do you know your teen? Take this quiz.

I have gone through the gamut of emotions from denial to complete outrage. I started out with "not my kid!". I saw the signs. She wasn't interested in cheer leading anymore. Her grades were becoming worse. She took naps in the afternoons. She started hanging out with different kids. I had a reasonable explanation for every thing I saw. She was going to a new school, so to me it wasn't that big of a deal that she didn't call her old best friend anymore. She had made new friends. Her grades were slipping because it was her first year in high school. She was adjusting to a more structured and demanding curriculum. She said she had lost interest in cheering and wanted to quit. I said OK. Kids change their minds constantly about what interests them. I remember taking naps after school when I was her age. Teenagers tend to stay up way past their bed time the night before and end up being exhausted by the time school is over the next day.I considered myself an educated parent. I truly felt I knew what to look for. I was completely wrong. My daughter had become a liar, a manipulator, a drug addict. I was angry at myself for not doing something sooner and angry for not educating myself beforehand. As a parent it is our job to be prepared, to talk to our kids and to be ever vigilant. I was also angry at my community. When I asked our older daughter what is taught at the school about drugs, she said nothing. I asked if there were posters, brochures, pamphlets, anything to let kids know how dangerous drugs are and where they can find help if they need it. Her answer was a resounding "No."

Whether you find yourself in the same position I was in, scared and angry, or you are taking steps now to prevent drug use in your home, you have already taken the first step by looking for information. You're reading this, so you have access to a computer. I started by searching and reading. I call it my trusty Google finger. I love Google. I searched for every keyword I could think of. From teenager to drunk driving, from marijuana to mental health. Whatever you want to know, the information is out there, you only need to look. I made a seperate folder for favorite sites that I found. I started this blog. I began asking questions in my community.

Find out what, if any, resources are available in your area. Ask your school, health care provider or clergy what they are doing to educate adolescents and prevent drug abuse in your community. Ask what you can do to help. Sign up for the Pareting Tips newsletter. Volunteer to share what you have learned in a Sunday school class or at a PTA meeting. Participate in a "Drug-Free Pledge Signing" . Download and print free brochures, postures or postcards and pass them out to friends, neighbors, at school, or at church.

Start here by downloading this free booklet "The Truth About Drugs".

Fact for the Day:
Kids who learn about the risks of drug abuse from their parents or caregivers are less likely to use drugs than kids who don't.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Beginning Residential Treatment

If you have a teen in your life that has mental health concerns, there may come a time when in-patient treatment is necessary. For those teens who have addictions to drugs, alcohol or food, often the course of the disease leads to an inevitable hospitalization. There are treatment centers that specialize in caring for teens like my daughter with substance abuse addictions. When my daughters life stood on the line, we made the choice to find care for her in a long term residential treatment facility.

After several weeks of out-patient treatment with her addictions counselor and court-ordered for 3 weeks at a group home, my daughter's impulse control and risk taking behaviors had not improved but worsened. She had only 2 days left on her 21 day court-ordered stay at the local group home for juvenile delinquents when she and another child ran away from the home. It was a night, just this past February, one of those nights that is bitterly cold and raining. Here is how incapable my daughter was of thinking of what dangers may be ahead, her only thought was to find a way to get high. That night she got drunk, got high, and slept in a strangers backyard in an RV. When she awoke the next day, her friend had abandoned her, scared and alone, instead of turning to a phone to call for her family or help she turned to the streets to look for yet another high. Unfortunately in finding that next high she also found someone who would take advantage of her. That day my daughter was raped. At the tender age of 14, her life was so out of control and her emotions so numb and buried that she chose to continue on alone. It wasn't until the happenstance of a true friend driving by who stopped and picked her up, pulled my daughter from those wicked lonely streets. Her friend called me soon after to let me know where Sarah was. She didn't tell me until much later all that had occurred that day. My heart broke into a thousand pieces.

As a Mother who has watched her child go through such devastating experiences, I wanted to share with others who know the torrent of emotions that we parents burden. We love our children so completely, so unselfishly that we are willing to do whatever it takes to help them. Even if it means taking them out of your home, away from your protection and giving their care over to others. If your child is using alcohol or drugs, they are lying to you, lying to themselves and have become a great manipulator under your very eyes. Do not fool yourself into believing that you know your teen through and through, that you can trust implicitly what they tell you. If you see any sign at all of behavior changes, routine changes, sleeping patterns, eating habits, grades faltering, interests going to the wayside, act immediately. Search their rooms, search their book bags, talk to their teachers and friends. The act of betraying their trust by snooping is such a small thing compared to what could happen without your intervention.

Initially our insurance company agreed to a two week stay and planned to review the doctors and counselors assessments in order to determine if a longer stay is needed. The admission process was much more time consuming and extensive that I ever thought it would be. Of course, this boded well, showing the centers proclivity for thoroughness and attention to detail. I was assured my daughter would receive the best of care and begrudgingly, began to believe so. The admitting nurse although not the warm bed side manner I would have preferred, proved to be very good with kids. My Sarah absolutely loved her and had no problem answering her endless questions about family history, school, friends, and of course drug use.
When I picked up my things, getting ready to go home, it was as if she was 5 years old again and I was waving goodbye as she got onto the school bus. A mixture of sadness, fear and pride. The sadness you feel when watching a child grow from one step to the next, that pang for what is to never be again. I looked into her eyes and saw that the wide-eyed innocence of youth was truly gone. Ripped from her by a stranger filled with lust and greed. Although I knew she was safe, I felt a fear well up inside of me. I was afraid of those ghosts I knew would haunt her, afraid of yet more strangers who would ask her probing questions, and afraid of her feeling hurt and alone, my not being there when she needed me. More than sadness or fear I felt a great sense of pride, only a mother can feel. I saw this beautiful young woman she was growing into, the bravery she cloaked herself in, the smile on her lips and the comfort in her arms as she hugged me goodbye. She was about to face a tremendously difficult journey, wrought with the storms of change and yet I knew deep within me that she could face this tempest head on and that she would accomplish what she had set out to do. With a tear in my eye and a proud smile on my face I wished her the warmest wishes of success as we said our goodbyes.
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