Addiction Sameness

Alcohol, Opiates, Fat and Sugar are all Addictive Substances: this blog is about that "addiction sameness".

Monday, October 31, 2011

Mindful Cafe: Learning to think outside box about teen drug use - The Naperville Sun

Mindful Cafe: Learning to think outside box about teen drug use - The Naperville Sun:

Some people are hard to help. There are particular problems laden with complications making the most experienced therapist fret and deliberate.

Imagine the father of a 15-year-old daughter who is constantly frustrated when she isolates herself in her room and stays on the phone too late. He complains that she rolls her eyes when he tries to ask, “How was your day at school” or “Why don’t you ever want to talk to me anymore?”

When you tell him to leave her a Post-it note message on her bathroom mirror, try texting her to say he misses her, or suggest that he take dinner into her room to join her while she listens to music, he ponders those suggestions and shrugs them all off as pointless.

“That won’t make any difference,” he says.

Or the 16-year-old son who screams about how his guardian grandparents don’t understand him, that they don’t trust him, and are constantly accusing him of lying or talking to his old drug-using friends. You encourage him to invite friends over to the house for a change, suggest to him to take his grandparents to an open support group for family members, to which he adamantly responds, “Why would I do that? They’re the ones who need to change.”

We have a term for this struggle in therapy: the “help-rejecting complainer.” In its most mild form, it is observed in a person venting their stress in one form or another, and when offered guidance or pointers, they find a subtle or at times overt way to reject the help. At that point, we have to recognize this as a sign to shift from advice giving to understanding what their resistance is really about.

Sometimes it is simple denial, other times it can be fear based, a lack of resources, or even lack of confidence to take the help because of the perceived risks involved. Many times the help-rejecting complainer has so many self-imposed barriers that they don’t even give themselves permission to solicit remedy for their stressor.

With all the heat on families to protect their homes from every kind of drug monster, people seem struck by the blitz. Parents are overwhelmed. I’m hearing more and more from parents their lack of comfort in even talking to their kids about drugs. They want to help their teens avoid drugs but don’t have a good idea where to start.

Some fear their child doesn’t have safe adults to talk to. Others are worried about how to reconcile their personal experiences with substances and the advice they got from their parents. Many parents have said things like: “Maybe the line between parent and friend is getting too gray,” and “Tell us what to do to make sure my kid doesn’t use heroin.”

I was impressed to meet a group of about 28 parents who showed up at an open drug education night at one of Naperville’s largest high schools. Though the small turnout could have been disheartening, those parents were energized and ready to take action.

As one father said about passing the knowledge forward, “If we each just tell five parents we know, those five can tell five others, and we can make a difference.”

Maybe the help needs to be packaged in a different way.

Several of those energized parents said their friends and neighbors didn’t want to attend the open forum because they didn’t want others to assume their teens were using. Others agreed saying they too feel pressured that people will judge their kids differently just because they as parents went to a drug education night.

Ask yourself: are you one of those parents who says they are frustrated by all the media buzz about drug problems to the point that you feel helpless? Do you feel the suggestions offered are too lofty to execute at home? Or is your family member one of those that you advise and support but never do anything with the help offered? Of course, the increased awareness is beneficial, but the true benefit occurs when we take action.

When we brainstorm and strategize together in the community, we can take action outside of the box and implement change. But contemplating really great ideas isn’t going to be enough. We must move forward and organize ourselves in this movement to halt the growth in drug use.

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, Naperville Police Chief David Dial, his detectives and the Naperville Fire Department will join with addiction treatment experts of Linden Oaks at Edward to host a community forum called “Right in Your Own Backyard: What Every Parent Needs to Know.” It will meet from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Edward Education Center Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public. It’s an opportunity to hear from a panel of experts and from community members about how to be “help-accepting changers.”

Stephanie Willis is a mental health and addictions therapist with Linden Oaks at Edward and Willis Counseling & Consulting. She can be reached at and 630-481-6463.

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