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Parenting the Addicted Child

Addiction impacts the entire family system. Changing the family system to help your child enter lifelong recovery requires consistency, boundaries and accountability.

Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted Child

Estimated watch time: 39 mins

Available credits: none

Presentation Materials:

Welcome to the Community Education Series, hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. 

Look at all these people, oh my God. This is so wonderful. Thank you so much all for tuning in. Really, it means a lot to me. Let’s do this. If you have a question, you can go ahead and fire it in there. Hi, Lindsey. What I’ll do is, you know, I’ll find the appropriate break to chat and sort of say what’s going on. Other than that, I just thought, “hey, what the heck, let’s get going.” I will definitely have time afterward for lots of questions and commentary and that sort of thing. 

When I do the questions and stuff, I’ll have a special guest host hanging out with me during the question and commentary. My Boston terrier Burt will be jumping into my lap and we’ll be having some chats. Anyway, without any further ado, let’s get rocking. Thank you so much, ARS and The Recovery Village for hosting this and putting it on, and I think I’m just so grateful and I love them. I love the folks there. I love the folks in Colorado. I love the folks here. I can’t begin to tell you enough that. You know, one of the things I really love about working with these guys is if they’re not the solution, they find me the solution, and to me that is just so honorable in this industry. So, as a therapist, at times I don’t know what to do or how to help my client, whether it’s an adult adolescent or teenager, ARS is right there for me.

All right, well, let’s start popping through. So, hey, my name is Kevin Petersen. I’ve a Master’s in marriage and family therapy. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I have a license in Colorado and I have a license in Florida as of July. So, it says that I was born in Palo Alto, California, and I went to Palo Alto High School. It’s funny to read my own bio. 

I was born in 1964, and one of the important things that it doesn’t say here is that I was born into a house of addiction. My mother was a prescription drug addict and my dad was very successful in business. The thing is we had this giant secret going on in our house and nobody could talk about it. It was really weird because we lived in this big, beautiful home and we had a lot of wonderful things, and went on wonderful vacations and, you know, my dad was very successful, but we had a big secret. We had a monster living in the house that nobody could talk about and that monster really pushed us around, told us what to do. 

Let’s see. In 1983, I lived in Spain for six months. I was a tractor driver in Granada. I ended up graduating from USC in 1994. If you do the math, I did spend 12 years in college and we’ll talk about that later. Did sales and marketing for a long, long, long time, 20 some years. Then in 2007, I was 16 years sober and 43 years old and I thought, you know, I’m halfway through my life expectancy and I hate my job. I’m making plenty of money, but I hate my job, and so if I’m going to make a move it’s now or never. So I literally quit my job and went back to school at Regis in Denver. I was part of the first class that graduated from their master’s of marriage and family therapy program. 

I went on to work at the local Medicaid-based facility in South Denver at Arapahoe Douglas Mental Health, where I did in-home therapy, crisis therapy and traditional outpatient, all in child family services. I was the guy that showed up at two in the morning when a kid had Medicaid with suicidal, homicidal or psychotic issues. I did that for about two and a half years. Then they also had a place called the bridge house, which is their acute treatment unit. It’s a psychiatric facility and I worked there on the weekends. So, that’s a little bit about work background. 

I also wrote a book. I want to show the book to you. It’s called “Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted Child.” It’s available on Amazon. It’s also available on Kindle and it’s basically the experiences I’ve had since I started my private practice in 2014. We’re going to go over all the material. That’s when I finally just wrote it down. It’s a short book. It’s a how-to, it’s not an in-depth therapy treatment. It’s very much, “Is this the problem? Here’s the solution. Try this.” 

Then my more personal information is that I’ve been sober since May 1991. I live in Denver and I also live in Jacksonville Beach with my wife, Amy, and our two Boston terriers Burt and Blanche. So, there’s the bio.

Let’s talk about addiction. Okay. One of the things that I believe in, and I look at this — understand my perspective. I grew up in a house of addiction. I became an addict. I started using at 13, 14 years old. I got sober when I was 27 and then I became a mental health professional. So, I feel like I have a perspective that’s somewhat unique and that I see it across the board. I see all angles and all sides to it. By the way, my mother never got sober. She died in 2014 of long-term prescription drug abuse. 

Right now across the nation, we’re definitely experiencing a lot of pressure and a lot of issues that have a lot of Americans turning to maladaptive coping mechanisms. By the way, there’s another talk that I did a couple of weeks ago about right now, what it’s like to grow up in the house of addiction and what the parallels of that are to what it’s like in our country today. You can see that on my YouTube channel, which I’ll give you all the information for as well. Studies show that one in five Americans will experience addiction at some point in their lifetime. What I would tell you is that five in five Americans will experience dealing with addiction, whether it’s themselves or somebody around them. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have a direct experience. So, the big question is, what if this person was a loved one or, what if it was your child?

So, what do you do if your kid is showing signs of addiction? Send your answers in by using the chat function, don’t bother with it. What I do and what I’ve learned to do, is triage the situation. So, my first phone call always goes like this: “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. We need your help. My 16 year old, my 26 year old, my 36 year old, my 46 year old, my 76 year old, you know, child, husband, wife, father, mother, son, whatever, brother, sister is struggling with addiction and we need to bring them in to you. And I’m like, no, no, you don’t need to bring him in to me. Why don’t you guys come in and we’ll talk about what’s going on in the house?” 

So the things I would say, “Hey, let’s recognize the signs of what an unmanageable lifestyle looks like.” So, what I’m looking for is trouble at school, trouble with the law, trouble with the family and at work, feelings of depression, anxiety or uselessness, poor hygiene. I’m not looking for the kid that had one drink, one joint, maybe tried something once and it was like, oh my gosh, the parents found out about it. I’m looking for someone that’s really struggling, and that’s who ends up coming to my door. What I always tell the families are, look for the changes in social circles, grades, friends, dating patterns, sports. The thing about alcoholics and addicts is that they leave a trail of breadcrumbs. They think they’re handling everything. When I say they, I mean, we, we think we’re handling everything just fine and that nobody knows, but if you take a long, hard look at it, you know, as a family member, it’s painfully obvious that things have changed dramatically. 

So, how do you get started? We’re going to say, let’s say one of our family members or our teenager has a problem. Grades are going down, they’re getting kicked out of school. Their relationships are ending. There’s trouble at home. What do we do? That’s kind of what I’ve come up with. Here’s the plan. Here’s what you do. What we’re going to do is we’re going to set boundaries, accountability and structure, and we’re going to do it in three specific areas. This is all covered in my book, but I’m going to show it to you here.  

So the first thing, let’s talk about this. Okay.

Boundaries: what are boundaries? Boundaries are your lines and parameters set for what you will and will not tolerate. Here’s the thing. I always hear this from the clients, and I know you guys hear from your clients too. Oh, we set boundaries and they just blew right through them. Okay. Well, what I always tell them is the boundary isn’t about them, the boundary’s about you. You have to hold the boundary. So, what I’ve learned is that without accountability, you know, the measure for activating the boundary? The boundary has no teeth. It means nothing, you know? 

Then there’s gotta be structure, you know, and structure is your consistent consequence for whether the boundary and accountability measures is or is not met. So let’s talk about what that looks like and why and how. There’s three areas that I tell people that they need to pay attention to in the world of boundaries, accountability, and structure. Drugs and alcohol is always the first one. Okay, and yes, Leonard, I will definitely make the PowerPoint presentation available. Great question. 

Boundary: let’s talk about the first boundary of the house. There’s only what I love, these families want to come back to me with like 35 pages of what the in-home contract is going to be, and that just doesn’t work. You gotta keep it simple and concise, you know, something people can follow. The first boundary is no drugs or no alcohol. And then the accountability is, how are we going to measure that? That is, regular drug testing and use of a breathalyzer. By the way, there’s a great program called Soberlink. If you’re not familiar with it, you can Google it. It’s something that looks like a cell phone, it goes off however many times a day you want it to go off. It takes a picture of the person and it does a breathalyzing and you can’t hustle it. You cannot cheat it. It’s very straightforward. So the structure is, if the tests are clean, then all the privileges are restored or accessed. If the tests are dirty, then there’s no privileges. What I mean by that is, you know, no, we’re not gonna have free time. You’re not going to go hang out with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, you know? You’re going to come home, you’re going to do schoolwork and if you have sports practice, that’s fine too. I’m a big advocate of afterschool activities and that sort of thing. But you’re going to keep things on a really short leash. 

The next territory we’re going to look at is school or work. And if you have questions, I’m happy to shoot em up with you. You know, I put 3.0 GPA or better with no missing assignments. Here’s the thing: I understand that every kid’s different and every family has got a different set of expectations. The bottom line is if you’re going to school and you’re attending the classes and you’re turning in the work, I don’t understand how you can’t do well in school. I’m not saying you’ve got to be the valedictorian. I don’t believe in that. By the way, the high school I went to, Palo Alto High School in California, has one of the highest suicide rates in the country from academic, friends, social pressure. So trust me, I’m not saying everybody’s got to get straight A’s and get a perfect score on the SATs or ACTs and go to Harvard or Stanford, quite the opposite. I think a lot of times the families kind of accept that, “Oh, well, you know, Cs are better, it’s okay. It really isn’t. I really think they’re capable of doing better. And I think that, you know, kids rise to the level of expectations. So if they are struggling at school, let’s get them help, you know, let’s find that. 

So, how are we going to hold them accountable to the academics and no missing assignments and no missing attendance? You’re going to get weekly reports from the school, and what does that look like? Now, a lot of times, the schools have online portals and that sort of thing. So you have to be able to learn how to access those and work your way through those. I also tell the kids, you know what, if my weekend was at stake, right? If my mom and dad were saying, hey,  if I don’t get a report back from the school on Friday that everything’s being handled and all your stuff’s turned in and your attendance is good, you’re just going to hang out with me all weekend. You’re not going to have any free time. I would be running around each teacher on Friday, making sure they connected with my parents. You know, you’ve got to put the responsibility back onto the kid. Then the structure of a 3.0 is achieved, and no there’s no missing assignments or no missing attendance. Then the privileges are restored. If they’re not 3.0, then there’s no privileges. I’m talking about phones, you know, I’m talking about computer, gaming, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. By the way, one of my tricks on this is, and I understand a lot of families are like, hey, we need him to have a phone so we can access him. That’s fine. Get him a flip phone. Yeah, there’s no need for him to have a full-on smartphone and access all this stuff and get in trouble when he can’t, you know, do well at school or stay sober. 

Behavior at home: boundary, no disrespectful behavior, language or violence and chores are to be completed on time. Now, the important piece of that is, I would say that goes both ways. So mom and dad can’t be screaming, cussing, and threatening and telling, you know, screaming at the kids saying, “I told you,” “God damn it,” you can’t use that kind of language. That doesn’t work. This is for everybody. 

The other thing is things gotta be literal. You gotta put everything on the table. There’s gotta be a list. You know, it can’t be well, “he knows,” that doesn’t work. That just never works. You have to have things written down and put it on the fridge, put it on the mirror. I don’t care. Just put it out there so everybody knows, so that everyone understands what the expectations are. Then you have a weekly meeting or family therapy where it’s all reviewed and it’s just simple. Here’s the categories, you know, how did everybody get along? How did everybody speak to each other? Were the chores done on time? How did we do at school? How’s the drinking and the alcohol? You know, get some coaching. Then the structure, if the goals are achieved, then the privileges are restored, if not, then no privileges. I hope you see the rhythm. Things are very straightforward.

So, here are the issues that tend to arise in this environment and this situation. Parents can’t agree, especially if they’re not living together, right? If we have a split family, that tends to be a challenge. If the family is together and you know, the parents are living together, my goal is to work with them and coach them on how to change the family system. 

You know, they always want to say, I’m going to bring the kid in to you. I’m like, no, you don’t bring the kid in to me. We’re going to start with whoever the parents are and whoever the caretakers are, and then we’re going to start there. Because we’re going to change the family system. You don’t change the family system by starting at the youngest person. We change the family system by starting at the parents. I always draw the parallel to, if a company is going broke, then they hire a consultant, the consultant doesn’t come in and say, we’re going to fire the receptionist and the janitor. You know that that’s not the problem. The problem is the management team and we got to change the way the management team is doing business. 

So the first thing I got to do as that therapist is get mom and dad or mom and mom, or dad and dad, or whatever, same team. Okay. If it’s a split house, I understand that if there’s another link going back and forth between two houses, then that scenario is, we have to work with both parents. But one of the things I always tell the person that has the most custody is, you can’t control what goes on in the other house. So what you can do is set the expectations for your house. 

You know, I’ve been sober 29 years, I’m 56 years old and I raised two stepchildren. One of the things that I would tell you that I’ve seen over time in life and professionally is, kids always gravitate to consistency. They always gravitate to the house that’s not in crisis. They may think it’s fun to go to the party house a couple of times. But at the end of the day, they come to the house where food’s on the table, clothes are washed, the house is clean and everybody knows where everybody stands. So, I always say let’s build that consistency. Kids love consistency, and they love boundaries. They really do. 

The technology needs, oh, he needs his computer for school. We need to make sure he or she has their phone. That’s fine. Just sit there with them, you know, I mean, that’s called parenting, you know, if you’re going to give them two hours to do their homework every day, when they get home, then fine. Make sure they do it. If they don’t and they use that time to screw around and goof off and whatever, then they’re going to have to suffer the consequences of the weekend of losing their privileges. 

One of the things that almost always happens in this situation is it exposes a deeper family dynamic issue. It reveals that kind of stuff. So, as we all know, when you have someone who’s young in the family that’s acting out (I mean, they may truly have an addiction issue or whatever’s going on), almost always there’s some family stuff going on too. So that gives us a really great opportunity as therapists to dig in and start working on the collective family system and not focus just on the addict. Right? Because we create that dynamic where we have a scapegoat where it’s all their fault, you know, everything’s his fault. Oh my God. If he would just clean up his act and get everything squared away, everything would be okay, and that’s just not true. That’s just not the reality of the situation. 

Plus I want to be super, super clear. The way I teach people to talk to people, their kids, I don’t believe in shaming them. I don’t believe in belittling them. I don’t believe in being, you know, negative and harsh and yelling and punitive. I think it’s just super important to treat them like we’re trying to raise them into being little adults, you know, young adults. What I say is, you know, just tell him, “Hey, look, man, these are the rules. This is the situation. This is what happened. So, you know, you’re not going to go out this weekend. You’re going to end up hanging out at home with us the entire time, and doing your homework and then you’re going to do chores. You know, now you’re my personal assistant until the grades come up, until everything else gets squared away and that’s just how it’s going to be. You know, there’s just nothing else we’re going to do about that. But I still love you, you’re still my child and I still care about you.” You know, so that’s just really important. I mean so many families, I get where the parents are just, you know, jumping down these kids’ throats and the kids just like, you know, “Screw you, I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.” Then they created that dynamic and then the kid evolves into owning that position in the family. We want to fix that.

What if the addict won’t quit? There’s a plan B when you’ve tried plan A for 30 days and the addict won’t quit. Here’s the thing, I want to be clear with you when I say 30 days, that’s a rough estimate. When it’s alcohol and marijuana, I am relatively patient with trying to get them to a place where they bring it down. My experience has shown that there’s a large percentage of kids that are struggling emotionally and they self-medicate, that doesn’t make them addicts or alcoholics. It just, that tends to be the tool they have available to them. So, what I try to do is let’s say, “Hey, let’s engage with the boundaries, accountability, and structure and see what happens and make sure we’re going down the right path.” 

But I also want to be clear, if we’re talking about opiates, heroin, cocaine, meth, anything along those lines, I have a much shorter fuse. I have a client right now that I actually met with for the first time yesterday who’s using cocaine. He’s smoking cocaine. I’m like, yeah, so this is not a “we’re going to think about it for a while” situation. This is, “we need to find a solution today because (and here’s the stark reality of this environment) people that use those drugs die.” When you work in the addiction world, that’s something you’re just going to have to get used to as part of the engagement of this world. It’s sad and it’s scary, but that’s reality. 

So we’ve tried plan A for 30 days and let’s say, you know, the kid won’t quit or he just struggles. Now we’re talking about intervention and treatment, that’s plan B, but we do it with love and compassion, not anger and frustration. I don’t believe in shaming them or bullying them. One of the things I would say is, remember, you’re not doing them any favors by tolerating or ignoring the behavior. This is something that I encountered so many times with the families that I work with, they know what’s going on. They just turn a blind eye to it. I hear things like, “Oh, you know, kids will be kids.” “It’s not that big a deal.” “You know, I did that when I was a kid and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I gotta tell ya. That’s just dangerous when you have a kid that’s deep in the deep water. 

Okay It’s still dangerous no matter what, but for the kids that come to my office, almost always, it’s not a surprise to the family. They know what’s going on. There’s no secret here. One of the things I always tell them is, allowing them to live in your house and still use enables them to kill themselves under your roof. Because another thing I get is, “Well, yeah, I know he’s shooting heroin, or smoking meth or whatever, but you know, I’d rather he did it in my house than out on the street.” My position is: so he’s killing himself. Okay. Let’s be clear. That’s how addiction ends. Okay? It doesn’t end pretty. Addiction ends in a death unless we find recovery. So how about we help them find recovery, and we don’t participate in their suicide. Because, I’ve worked with plenty of families that have lost kids or lost family members and the biggest question they always look back on and say, “Well, did I do everything I could have done?” You know, did I try to get them help? Where could I have done something differently? Again, I don’t beat them up, but that’s a whole different engagement.

So let’s talk about now we’ve done an intervention. Let’s talk about the continuum of care and what we’re looking for and the mode of a treatment center. Generally, what you’re looking at in the first one is a medical detox facility, which could be anywhere from three to seven days, depending on how much use is going on. 

By the way, let’s be clear, when kids are using marijuana or young adults are using marijuana… so, I’m 56 years old and I’ll be quite open with you. I smoked marijuana every day for years. I quit in 1991, the marijuana I was smoking, back in the day, was 3 to 5% THC levels, and these are government statistics. They actually buy it off the street and test it. Then in 2000, that number went from about 3% to 5%, went to 6% to 10%. And then in 2010, that number jumped and it starts at about 30% and it goes up to 90%. That’s the sort of product that these kids are engaging with today. And I’m talking about the actual marijuana all the way up to oils, waxes, and dabs and that sort of stuff. It is so powerful and so strong and so overwhelming. 

So detox can actually end up being something… we see it a lot in Colorado. Then, the next step is residential treatment, which can be anywhere from 14 to 21 to 28 days, depending on the insurance package. Then, the next step down after that is a partial hospitalization program, which is roughly about 20 hours a week of programming. So, in the residential program, we do 40 hours a week and we’re living there. And the next level down and the PHP will be doing 20 hours a week. Sometimes we do PHP when we’re living either in a train or a sober living environment. The next level down after that is intensive outpatient, which can be nine to 12 hours of programming and treatment and groups and therapy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Again, that can be done in a sober living environment as well. Then, the next step down after that is sober living, and that’s when we’re looking at just doing outpatient therapy. So you can see as we move down the path, we slowly work them down into having less and less structure and less and less treatment and more and more freedom, ideally to get back to school, go to work, et cetera, et cetera. That’s what we’re trying to look for.  

Keep in mind, 30, 60, 90-day inpatient treatment centers and intensive outpatient treatment centers are available, in-state and out-of-state, in-network and out-of-network all over the country. 

One of the things that really bugs me is that when I work with a family, that’s, you know, either spoken with someone or Googled or been through this before. All they’ve ever found is straight cash pay options. I mean, I literally had a family that took a second mortgage on a house to send their kid to treatment. I was like, Whoa, what are you doing? There’s plenty of places available that’ll take your insurance, and they’re like, “We had no idea.” Sometimes they get that advice from professionals in our industry and that’s very upsetting to me. 

So how do you find those? The people that are sponsoring this, ARS, Amy, Casey, and whoever else is on the call, on the Zoom from the company. They will help you. And I’m going to tell you from personal experience, both Amy and Casey, and I’m sure their reps in Washington and Ohio and the rest of the country, will be the first ones to say, “We’re not the right solution, but you know who you should call? You should call this guy. You should call this place.” And you know, that’s the truth. To me, that’s the mark of good people in this industry. 

Therapeutic boarding schools and sober high schools are also options, aside from the sober living facilities. There is an amazing sober living high school in Denver. There’s actually an amazing sober high school here. Not sober living, sober high school in Jacksonville. There’s a couple of them all over the country. I’ll have to look into what it’s called. There’s a documentary about the program that started in Houston. And then I have one in San Diego and there are sober high schools with mental health features and they’re public.

There are phenomenal options. They’re incredible. Rehab isn’t cheap. Interview all the treatment centers. If you can, visit the facilities and work with your therapist. You know, get the help that you can in finding and making a decision. This is going to sound terrible, but just hear me when I say this. Picking a treatment center is like buying a car. Okay. You know, there’s a certain level of quality that is going to exist in all treatment centers, hopefully. You have the right to negotiate. You know, you have insurance. If you have insurance for your kid, you have insurance. Then you go straight into a situation of finding a place that takes your insurance.

There’s no reason for you to spend an ungodly amount of money. If you can spend that kind of money, knock yourself out, then there’s great treatment centers there too.  I just want to let you know, people always say, there are no treatment centers for them, for kids that have insurance.

I’m like, ah, but there are, you just have to know who to talk to and how to get there. 

Okay. Couple of critical elements here, you cannot expect the addict to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. I’m talking to the family, right? So we’re not going to send somebody to treatment for, you know, 30, 60, 90 days or six months, and the family’s not going to change the family system. You know, it’s critical. It’s critical that the family engages in their own recovery, whether it’s therapy, whether it’s 12-step, whether it’s face-pace, whatever, it doesn’t matter, you know, but they got to dig into their own stuff. The family can’t say it’s all the other person’s problem and not their problem. So therefore it’s important to support the addict during treatment, by using all sorts of different resources for the family. The continuum of care goes beyond treatment. It’s important that the family work on its dynamics and its behaviors as well. It’s not just, this is all that one thing.  Okay. I see a couple of questions. I swear to, gosh, I will spend all the time answering every question there is, and yes, we’ll do lots to meet you as a guest. Yes, absolutely. That was from Lisa and Elle.

The next steps: begin healing the family. It’s critical as a therapist that you see them through all three stages. There’s the before, which is when we’re setting up plan A and plan B, and then we go to treatment. Then we’re in the during. And the during is when the therapist really has to dig into the family and help them out and really help them with their own stuff while the person’s in treatment, you know? Then that’s critical because the person’s in treatment, they’re getting all the help they can get. Now we got to dig into the family and that can almost be more challenging. And then the after is the reintegration. We want to improve family behaviors. We want to get rid of things like the secret-keeping, the blame game. 

Codependency obviously is a big issue. By that, I mean, here’s one of my favorite terms of codependency: I’m going to work harder on your problems than you do, then I’m going to sacrifice myself for you, but then I’m going to get mad at you because you’re not being grateful.

That is a beautiful way of looking at codependency. Then the other thing that families do is normalize poor behavior. Work with a therapist, work with support groups and other resources to reintroduce your loved one back into the world. Remember just because the addict is sober does not mean the problem was solved. You know, the journey is continuous and we’re just getting started and we’re just kind of rolling down the road. Addiction affects the family system, so the entire family has to heal. 

Let me tell you a little story about that one, and I think we’re almost done. I have a younger sister, she’s three years younger than me. One of the things she always said (I got sober, I made amends to her). One of the things she said is “Everything was always about you no matter what. Whether it was positive or negative, good or bad, it was all Kevin, all the time.” And she’s like, “That was just kind of exhausting for me. So I just didn’t want to be around you.” I totally understood what she was saying. Addicts and alcoholics get in the middle of the family system and they don’t leave. They refuse to say that, you know, they get in there and they cause lots of drama and crisis and chaos and everybody in the family system has to circle around them and deal with it. Then the only way to really disengage that is to just change the family system, not just change the addict. 

How do we do that? Well, these are my watch words: consistency, accountability, and transparency.

Consistency: you create success through repetition that conquers the old way of life. So let me tell you what I mean by this. This is an old phrase from the 12-step recovery world. I go to regular meetings regularly. When I want to work out, I work out regularly at the same time, every day, four or five, six, seven days a week. If I want to see results, that’s consistency, you know, it’s the same thing. You got to go to therapy consistently. You got to do family therapy consistently. You’ve got to hold the boundaries consistently. You can’t do it once and say, “Oh gosh, it doesn’t work.” You can’t go to therapy once or twice and call it good.

Accountability: it develops a sense of connection and community to help heal and keep the egos in check. It creates vulnerability with a sponsor mentor or a therapist. So we got to have somebody that we’re checking in with that understands, that knows the goods, that knows where the bodies are buried, that knows the secrets. That is critical. It’s absolutely critical. I see that all the time in the families I work with, you know, that I can always tell when I’m working with a family where they’re all kind of giving each other the side look. I’m like, “Okay, what’s going on? What am I not hearing?” “Oh, well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is what happened.” I’m like, “Okay, well, let’s talk about that.” “Well, we didn’t want to waste a lot of time on that.” I’m like, “Yeah, I think that probably might be what we need to talk about today.” You know, we need to get things up on the top surface. 

Transparency: having everything on the table with nothing hidden in the closet. And that takes time to get to, but that’s the goal is getting to a transparent lifestyle where there’s no secrets. There’s no hustle.

Recovery is a journey. You use consistency, accountability, transparency for all the family members. Remember this is not just the addict or the kid. Continuing with individual and family therapy, 12-step meetings, faith-based community support groups, whatever the family engages in, the answer is, let’s go for it. 

Resources: these are just a quick version. Okay. 12-step meetings. I like CoDA. I like Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, Adult Children of Alcoholics, there’s SMART Recovery. There are a lot of family recovery programs that are regional around the country. There’s a great one in Seattle that a woman puts on out there. There’s one out here in Jacksonville. There’s lots of opportunities like that, but you’ve got to plug in to the system and find out who’s who, and what’s what. 

Books: “Codependent No More”. I mean, it’s where I start everybody. It’s by Melody Beattie. I’ll show you, “Codependent No More”. It’s my first start and has lots of discussion questions in the back. Obviously, I think it’s important for families to dig into that. The next one is “Unspoken Legacy,” by Dr. Claudia Black, she’s phenomenal. She really gets into the impact of trauma and addiction within the family. Then “Facing Codependence,” one of my all time favorites from Pia Mellody. And of course my own personal favorite. “The Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted child”. 

Videos: I don’t know if you guys have watched this video, (and by the way, if you know anyone that works at the Meadows, they’ll give you one for free) “Pleasure Unwoven” is absolutely incredible. It’s a documentary by Dr. Kevin McCauley, who is in recovery himself, and he discusses his own journey. But he also discusses the biological, medical, psychological, and spiritual sides of addiction and recovery. I love having families watch that because they kind of have that a-ha moment where they’re like, “Oh, now I get it. You know, now I understand that he’s actually different than we are,” and that’s critical. It’s great for therapists as well. I’m a big fan of faith-based support groups, community-based support groups, social networking groups, and you go up onto Facebook and all of them in there, they’re everywhere. Yeah. There’s Moms Fighting Addiction. So engagement is engagement. I think it’s all good.

Let’s see. Questions. Hey guys, thanks for listening. Take a bio break. I mean I know I talk a lot, so I hope that wasn’t too much for you guys. Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

Objectives and Summary:

In this webinar presentation, Kevin Petersen, LMFT and author of “Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted Child”, reviews the process he takes families through as parents attempt to help their children struggling with addiction. He discusses the trio of strategies essential to this task (boundaries, accountability and structure), common pitfalls, the addiction treatment process and how to find available resources.

After watching this presentation, the viewer will be able to:

  • Give examples of how exerting boundaries, accountability and structure in the home can play out.
  • Understand the problematic lines of thinking that can lead a family off the road to recovery.
  • Find resources in their local area to get help for their family.

Presentation Materials:

Welcome to the Community Education Series, hosted by The Recovery Village and Advanced Recovery Systems. 

Look at all these people, oh my God. This is so wonderful. Thank you so much all for tuning in. Really, it means a lot to me. Let’s do this. If you have a question, you can go ahead and fire it in there. Hi, Lindsey. What I’ll do is, you know, I’ll find the appropriate break to chat and sort of say what’s going on. Other than that, I just thought, “hey, what the heck, let’s get going.” I will definitely have time afterward for lots of questions and commentary and that sort of thing. 

When I do the questions and stuff, I’ll have a special guest host hanging out with me during the question and commentary. My Boston terrier Burt will be jumping into my lap and we’ll be having some chats. Anyway, without any further ado, let’s get rocking. Thank you so much, ARS and The Recovery Village for hosting this and putting it on, and I think I’m just so grateful and I love them. I love the folks there. I love the folks in Colorado. I love the folks here. I can’t begin to tell you enough that. You know, one of the things I really love about working with these guys is if they’re not the solution, they find me the solution, and to me that is just so honorable in this industry. So, as a therapist, at times I don’t know what to do or how to help my client, whether it’s an adult adolescent or teenager, ARS is right there for me.

All right, well, let’s start popping through. So, hey, my name is Kevin Petersen. I’ve a Master’s in marriage and family therapy. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I have a license in Colorado and I have a license in Florida as of July. So, it says that I was born in Palo Alto, California, and I went to Palo Alto High School. It’s funny to read my own bio. 

I was born in 1964, and one of the important things that it doesn’t say here is that I was born into a house of addiction. My mother was a prescription drug addict and my dad was very successful in business. The thing is we had this giant secret going on in our house and nobody could talk about it. It was really weird because we lived in this big, beautiful home and we had a lot of wonderful things, and went on wonderful vacations and, you know, my dad was very successful, but we had a big secret. We had a monster living in the house that nobody could talk about and that monster really pushed us around, told us what to do. 

Let’s see. In 1983, I lived in Spain for six months. I was a tractor driver in Granada. I ended up graduating from USC in 1994. If you do the math, I did spend 12 years in college and we’ll talk about that later. Did sales and marketing for a long, long, long time, 20 some years. Then in 2007, I was 16 years sober and 43 years old and I thought, you know, I’m halfway through my life expectancy and I hate my job. I’m making plenty of money, but I hate my job, and so if I’m going to make a move it’s now or never. So I literally quit my job and went back to school at Regis in Denver. I was part of the first class that graduated from their master’s of marriage and family therapy program. 

I went on to work at the local Medicaid-based facility in South Denver at Arapahoe Douglas Mental Health, where I did in-home therapy, crisis therapy and traditional outpatient, all in child family services. I was the guy that showed up at two in the morning when a kid had Medicaid with suicidal, homicidal or psychotic issues. I did that for about two and a half years. Then they also had a place called the bridge house, which is their acute treatment unit. It’s a psychiatric facility and I worked there on the weekends. So, that’s a little bit about work background. 

I also wrote a book. I want to show the book to you. It’s called “Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted Child.” It’s available on Amazon. It’s also available on Kindle and it’s basically the experiences I’ve had since I started my private practice in 2014. We’re going to go over all the material. That’s when I finally just wrote it down. It’s a short book. It’s a how-to, it’s not an in-depth therapy treatment. It’s very much, “Is this the problem? Here’s the solution. Try this.” 

Then my more personal information is that I’ve been sober since May 1991. I live in Denver and I also live in Jacksonville Beach with my wife, Amy, and our two Boston terriers Burt and Blanche. So, there’s the bio.

Let’s talk about addiction. Okay. One of the things that I believe in, and I look at this — understand my perspective. I grew up in a house of addiction. I became an addict. I started using at 13, 14 years old. I got sober when I was 27 and then I became a mental health professional. So, I feel like I have a perspective that’s somewhat unique and that I see it across the board. I see all angles and all sides to it. By the way, my mother never got sober. She died in 2014 of long-term prescription drug abuse. 

Right now across the nation, we’re definitely experiencing a lot of pressure and a lot of issues that have a lot of Americans turning to maladaptive coping mechanisms. By the way, there’s another talk that I did a couple of weeks ago about right now, what it’s like to grow up in the house of addiction and what the parallels of that are to what it’s like in our country today. You can see that on my YouTube channel, which I’ll give you all the information for as well. Studies show that one in five Americans will experience addiction at some point in their lifetime. What I would tell you is that five in five Americans will experience dealing with addiction, whether it’s themselves or somebody around them. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t have a direct experience. So, the big question is, what if this person was a loved one or, what if it was your child?

So, what do you do if your kid is showing signs of addiction? Send your answers in by using the chat function, don’t bother with it. What I do and what I’ve learned to do, is triage the situation. So, my first phone call always goes like this: “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. We need your help. My 16 year old, my 26 year old, my 36 year old, my 46 year old, my 76 year old, you know, child, husband, wife, father, mother, son, whatever, brother, sister is struggling with addiction and we need to bring them in to you. And I’m like, no, no, you don’t need to bring him in to me. Why don’t you guys come in and we’ll talk about what’s going on in the house?” 

So the things I would say, “Hey, let’s recognize the signs of what an unmanageable lifestyle looks like.” So, what I’m looking for is trouble at school, trouble with the law, trouble with the family and at work, feelings of depression, anxiety or uselessness, poor hygiene. I’m not looking for the kid that had one drink, one joint, maybe tried something once and it was like, oh my gosh, the parents found out about it. I’m looking for someone that’s really struggling, and that’s who ends up coming to my door. What I always tell the families are, look for the changes in social circles, grades, friends, dating patterns, sports. The thing about alcoholics and addicts is that they leave a trail of breadcrumbs. They think they’re handling everything. When I say they, I mean, we, we think we’re handling everything just fine and that nobody knows, but if you take a long, hard look at it, you know, as a family member, it’s painfully obvious that things have changed dramatically. 

So, how do you get started? We’re going to say, let’s say one of our family members or our teenager has a problem. Grades are going down, they’re getting kicked out of school. Their relationships are ending. There’s trouble at home. What do we do? That’s kind of what I’ve come up with. Here’s the plan. Here’s what you do. What we’re going to do is we’re going to set boundaries, accountability and structure, and we’re going to do it in three specific areas. This is all covered in my book, but I’m going to show it to you here.  

So the first thing, let’s talk about this. Okay.

Boundaries: what are boundaries? Boundaries are your lines and parameters set for what you will and will not tolerate. Here’s the thing. I always hear this from the clients, and I know you guys hear from your clients too. Oh, we set boundaries and they just blew right through them. Okay. Well, what I always tell them is the boundary isn’t about them, the boundary’s about you. You have to hold the boundary. So, what I’ve learned is that without accountability, you know, the measure for activating the boundary? The boundary has no teeth. It means nothing, you know? 

Then there’s gotta be structure, you know, and structure is your consistent consequence for whether the boundary and accountability measures is or is not met. So let’s talk about what that looks like and why and how. There’s three areas that I tell people that they need to pay attention to in the world of boundaries, accountability, and structure. Drugs and alcohol is always the first one. Okay, and yes, Leonard, I will definitely make the PowerPoint presentation available. Great question. 

Boundary: let’s talk about the first boundary of the house. There’s only what I love, these families want to come back to me with like 35 pages of what the in-home contract is going to be, and that just doesn’t work. You gotta keep it simple and concise, you know, something people can follow. The first boundary is no drugs or no alcohol. And then the accountability is, how are we going to measure that? That is, regular drug testing and use of a breathalyzer. By the way, there’s a great program called Soberlink. If you’re not familiar with it, you can Google it. It’s something that looks like a cell phone, it goes off however many times a day you want it to go off. It takes a picture of the person and it does a breathalyzing and you can’t hustle it. You cannot cheat it. It’s very straightforward. So the structure is, if the tests are clean, then all the privileges are restored or accessed. If the tests are dirty, then there’s no privileges. What I mean by that is, you know, no, we’re not gonna have free time. You’re not going to go hang out with your boyfriend or your girlfriend, you know? You’re going to come home, you’re going to do schoolwork and if you have sports practice, that’s fine too. I’m a big advocate of afterschool activities and that sort of thing. But you’re going to keep things on a really short leash. 

The next territory we’re going to look at is school or work. And if you have questions, I’m happy to shoot em up with you. You know, I put 3.0 GPA or better with no missing assignments. Here’s the thing: I understand that every kid’s different and every family has got a different set of expectations. The bottom line is if you’re going to school and you’re attending the classes and you’re turning in the work, I don’t understand how you can’t do well in school. I’m not saying you’ve got to be the valedictorian. I don’t believe in that. By the way, the high school I went to, Palo Alto High School in California, has one of the highest suicide rates in the country from academic, friends, social pressure. So trust me, I’m not saying everybody’s got to get straight A’s and get a perfect score on the SATs or ACTs and go to Harvard or Stanford, quite the opposite. I think a lot of times the families kind of accept that, “Oh, well, you know, Cs are better, it’s okay. It really isn’t. I really think they’re capable of doing better. And I think that, you know, kids rise to the level of expectations. So if they are struggling at school, let’s get them help, you know, let’s find that. 

So, how are we going to hold them accountable to the academics and no missing assignments and no missing attendance? You’re going to get weekly reports from the school, and what does that look like? Now, a lot of times, the schools have online portals and that sort of thing. So you have to be able to learn how to access those and work your way through those. I also tell the kids, you know what, if my weekend was at stake, right? If my mom and dad were saying, hey,  if I don’t get a report back from the school on Friday that everything’s being handled and all your stuff’s turned in and your attendance is good, you’re just going to hang out with me all weekend. You’re not going to have any free time. I would be running around each teacher on Friday, making sure they connected with my parents. You know, you’ve got to put the responsibility back onto the kid. Then the structure of a 3.0 is achieved, and no there’s no missing assignments or no missing attendance. Then the privileges are restored. If they’re not 3.0, then there’s no privileges. I’m talking about phones, you know, I’m talking about computer, gaming, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. By the way, one of my tricks on this is, and I understand a lot of families are like, hey, we need him to have a phone so we can access him. That’s fine. Get him a flip phone. Yeah, there’s no need for him to have a full-on smartphone and access all this stuff and get in trouble when he can’t, you know, do well at school or stay sober. 

Behavior at home: boundary, no disrespectful behavior, language or violence and chores are to be completed on time. Now, the important piece of that is, I would say that goes both ways. So mom and dad can’t be screaming, cussing, and threatening and telling, you know, screaming at the kids saying, “I told you,” “God damn it,” you can’t use that kind of language. That doesn’t work. This is for everybody. 

The other thing is things gotta be literal. You gotta put everything on the table. There’s gotta be a list. You know, it can’t be well, “he knows,” that doesn’t work. That just never works. You have to have things written down and put it on the fridge, put it on the mirror. I don’t care. Just put it out there so everybody knows, so that everyone understands what the expectations are. Then you have a weekly meeting or family therapy where it’s all reviewed and it’s just simple. Here’s the categories, you know, how did everybody get along? How did everybody speak to each other? Were the chores done on time? How did we do at school? How’s the drinking and the alcohol? You know, get some coaching. Then the structure, if the goals are achieved, then the privileges are restored, if not, then no privileges. I hope you see the rhythm. Things are very straightforward.

So, here are the issues that tend to arise in this environment and this situation. Parents can’t agree, especially if they’re not living together, right? If we have a split family, that tends to be a challenge. If the family is together and you know, the parents are living together, my goal is to work with them and coach them on how to change the family system. 

You know, they always want to say, I’m going to bring the kid in to you. I’m like, no, you don’t bring the kid in to me. We’re going to start with whoever the parents are and whoever the caretakers are, and then we’re going to start there. Because we’re going to change the family system. You don’t change the family system by starting at the youngest person. We change the family system by starting at the parents. I always draw the parallel to, if a company is going broke, then they hire a consultant, the consultant doesn’t come in and say, we’re going to fire the receptionist and the janitor. You know that that’s not the problem. The problem is the management team and we got to change the way the management team is doing business. 

So the first thing I got to do as that therapist is get mom and dad or mom and mom, or dad and dad, or whatever, same team. Okay. If it’s a split house, I understand that if there’s another link going back and forth between two houses, then that scenario is, we have to work with both parents. But one of the things I always tell the person that has the most custody is, you can’t control what goes on in the other house. So what you can do is set the expectations for your house. 

You know, I’ve been sober 29 years, I’m 56 years old and I raised two stepchildren. One of the things that I would tell you that I’ve seen over time in life and professionally is, kids always gravitate to consistency. They always gravitate to the house that’s not in crisis. They may think it’s fun to go to the party house a couple of times. But at the end of the day, they come to the house where food’s on the table, clothes are washed, the house is clean and everybody knows where everybody stands. So, I always say let’s build that consistency. Kids love consistency, and they love boundaries. They really do. 

The technology needs, oh, he needs his computer for school. We need to make sure he or she has their phone. That’s fine. Just sit there with them, you know, I mean, that’s called parenting, you know, if you’re going to give them two hours to do their homework every day, when they get home, then fine. Make sure they do it. If they don’t and they use that time to screw around and goof off and whatever, then they’re going to have to suffer the consequences of the weekend of losing their privileges. 

One of the things that almost always happens in this situation is it exposes a deeper family dynamic issue. It reveals that kind of stuff. So, as we all know, when you have someone who’s young in the family that’s acting out (I mean, they may truly have an addiction issue or whatever’s going on), almost always there’s some family stuff going on too. So that gives us a really great opportunity as therapists to dig in and start working on the collective family system and not focus just on the addict. Right? Because we create that dynamic where we have a scapegoat where it’s all their fault, you know, everything’s his fault. Oh my God. If he would just clean up his act and get everything squared away, everything would be okay, and that’s just not true. That’s just not the reality of the situation. 

Plus I want to be super, super clear. The way I teach people to talk to people, their kids, I don’t believe in shaming them. I don’t believe in belittling them. I don’t believe in being, you know, negative and harsh and yelling and punitive. I think it’s just super important to treat them like we’re trying to raise them into being little adults, you know, young adults. What I say is, you know, just tell him, “Hey, look, man, these are the rules. This is the situation. This is what happened. So, you know, you’re not going to go out this weekend. You’re going to end up hanging out at home with us the entire time, and doing your homework and then you’re going to do chores. You know, now you’re my personal assistant until the grades come up, until everything else gets squared away and that’s just how it’s going to be. You know, there’s just nothing else we’re going to do about that. But I still love you, you’re still my child and I still care about you.” You know, so that’s just really important. I mean so many families, I get where the parents are just, you know, jumping down these kids’ throats and the kids just like, you know, “Screw you, I’m going to do whatever the hell I want.” Then they created that dynamic and then the kid evolves into owning that position in the family. We want to fix that.

What if the addict won’t quit? There’s a plan B when you’ve tried plan A for 30 days and the addict won’t quit. Here’s the thing, I want to be clear with you when I say 30 days, that’s a rough estimate. When it’s alcohol and marijuana, I am relatively patient with trying to get them to a place where they bring it down. My experience has shown that there’s a large percentage of kids that are struggling emotionally and they self-medicate, that doesn’t make them addicts or alcoholics. It just, that tends to be the tool they have available to them. So, what I try to do is let’s say, “Hey, let’s engage with the boundaries, accountability, and structure and see what happens and make sure we’re going down the right path.” 

But I also want to be clear, if we’re talking about opiates, heroin, cocaine, meth, anything along those lines, I have a much shorter fuse. I have a client right now that I actually met with for the first time yesterday who’s using cocaine. He’s smoking cocaine. I’m like, yeah, so this is not a “we’re going to think about it for a while” situation. This is, “we need to find a solution today because (and here’s the stark reality of this environment) people that use those drugs die.” When you work in the addiction world, that’s something you’re just going to have to get used to as part of the engagement of this world. It’s sad and it’s scary, but that’s reality. 

So we’ve tried plan A for 30 days and let’s say, you know, the kid won’t quit or he just struggles. Now we’re talking about intervention and treatment, that’s plan B, but we do it with love and compassion, not anger and frustration. I don’t believe in shaming them or bullying them. One of the things I would say is, remember, you’re not doing them any favors by tolerating or ignoring the behavior. This is something that I encountered so many times with the families that I work with, they know what’s going on. They just turn a blind eye to it. I hear things like, “Oh, you know, kids will be kids.” “It’s not that big a deal.” “You know, I did that when I was a kid and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” I gotta tell ya. That’s just dangerous when you have a kid that’s deep in the deep water. 

Okay It’s still dangerous no matter what, but for the kids that come to my office, almost always, it’s not a surprise to the family. They know what’s going on. There’s no secret here. One of the things I always tell them is, allowing them to live in your house and still use enables them to kill themselves under your roof. Because another thing I get is, “Well, yeah, I know he’s shooting heroin, or smoking meth or whatever, but you know, I’d rather he did it in my house than out on the street.” My position is: so he’s killing himself. Okay. Let’s be clear. That’s how addiction ends. Okay? It doesn’t end pretty. Addiction ends in a death unless we find recovery. So how about we help them find recovery, and we don’t participate in their suicide. Because, I’ve worked with plenty of families that have lost kids or lost family members and the biggest question they always look back on and say, “Well, did I do everything I could have done?” You know, did I try to get them help? Where could I have done something differently? Again, I don’t beat them up, but that’s a whole different engagement.

So let’s talk about now we’ve done an intervention. Let’s talk about the continuum of care and what we’re looking for and the mode of a treatment center. Generally, what you’re looking at in the first one is a medical detox facility, which could be anywhere from three to seven days, depending on how much use is going on. 

By the way, let’s be clear, when kids are using marijuana or young adults are using marijuana… so, I’m 56 years old and I’ll be quite open with you. I smoked marijuana every day for years. I quit in 1991, the marijuana I was smoking, back in the day, was 3 to 5% THC levels, and these are government statistics. They actually buy it off the street and test it. Then in 2000, that number went from about 3% to 5%, went to 6% to 10%. And then in 2010, that number jumped and it starts at about 30% and it goes up to 90%. That’s the sort of product that these kids are engaging with today. And I’m talking about the actual marijuana all the way up to oils, waxes, and dabs and that sort of stuff. It is so powerful and so strong and so overwhelming. 

So detox can actually end up being something… we see it a lot in Colorado. Then, the next step is residential treatment, which can be anywhere from 14 to 21 to 28 days, depending on the insurance package. Then, the next step down after that is a partial hospitalization program, which is roughly about 20 hours a week of programming. So, in the residential program, we do 40 hours a week and we’re living there. And the next level down and the PHP will be doing 20 hours a week. Sometimes we do PHP when we’re living either in a train or a sober living environment. The next level down after that is intensive outpatient, which can be nine to 12 hours of programming and treatment and groups and therapy, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Again, that can be done in a sober living environment as well. Then, the next step down after that is sober living, and that’s when we’re looking at just doing outpatient therapy. So you can see as we move down the path, we slowly work them down into having less and less structure and less and less treatment and more and more freedom, ideally to get back to school, go to work, et cetera, et cetera. That’s what we’re trying to look for.  

Keep in mind, 30, 60, 90-day inpatient treatment centers and intensive outpatient treatment centers are available, in-state and out-of-state, in-network and out-of-network all over the country. 

One of the things that really bugs me is that when I work with a family, that’s, you know, either spoken with someone or Googled or been through this before. All they’ve ever found is straight cash pay options. I mean, I literally had a family that took a second mortgage on a house to send their kid to treatment. I was like, Whoa, what are you doing? There’s plenty of places available that’ll take your insurance, and they’re like, “We had no idea.” Sometimes they get that advice from professionals in our industry and that’s very upsetting to me. 

So how do you find those? The people that are sponsoring this, ARS, Amy, Casey, and whoever else is on the call, on the Zoom from the company. They will help you. And I’m going to tell you from personal experience, both Amy and Casey, and I’m sure their reps in Washington and Ohio and the rest of the country, will be the first ones to say, “We’re not the right solution, but you know who you should call? You should call this guy. You should call this place.” And you know, that’s the truth. To me, that’s the mark of good people in this industry. 

Therapeutic boarding schools and sober high schools are also options, aside from the sober living facilities. There is an amazing sober living high school in Denver. There’s actually an amazing sober high school here. Not sober living, sober high school in Jacksonville. There’s a couple of them all over the country. I’ll have to look into what it’s called. There’s a documentary about the program that started in Houston. And then I have one in San Diego and there are sober high schools with mental health features and they’re public.

There are phenomenal options. They’re incredible. Rehab isn’t cheap. Interview all the treatment centers. If you can, visit the facilities and work with your therapist. You know, get the help that you can in finding and making a decision. This is going to sound terrible, but just hear me when I say this. Picking a treatment center is like buying a car. Okay. You know, there’s a certain level of quality that is going to exist in all treatment centers, hopefully. You have the right to negotiate. You know, you have insurance. If you have insurance for your kid, you have insurance. Then you go straight into a situation of finding a place that takes your insurance.

There’s no reason for you to spend an ungodly amount of money. If you can spend that kind of money, knock yourself out, then there’s great treatment centers there too.  I just want to let you know, people always say, there are no treatment centers for them, for kids that have insurance.

I’m like, ah, but there are, you just have to know who to talk to and how to get there. 

Okay. Couple of critical elements here, you cannot expect the addict to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. I’m talking to the family, right? So we’re not going to send somebody to treatment for, you know, 30, 60, 90 days or six months, and the family’s not going to change the family system. You know, it’s critical. It’s critical that the family engages in their own recovery, whether it’s therapy, whether it’s 12-step, whether it’s face-pace, whatever, it doesn’t matter, you know, but they got to dig into their own stuff. The family can’t say it’s all the other person’s problem and not their problem. So therefore it’s important to support the addict during treatment, by using all sorts of different resources for the family. The continuum of care goes beyond treatment. It’s important that the family work on its dynamics and its behaviors as well. It’s not just, this is all that one thing.  Okay. I see a couple of questions. I swear to, gosh, I will spend all the time answering every question there is, and yes, we’ll do lots to meet you as a guest. Yes, absolutely. That was from Lisa and Elle.

The next steps: begin healing the family. It’s critical as a therapist that you see them through all three stages. There’s the before, which is when we’re setting up plan A and plan B, and then we go to treatment. Then we’re in the during. And the during is when the therapist really has to dig into the family and help them out and really help them with their own stuff while the person’s in treatment, you know? Then that’s critical because the person’s in treatment, they’re getting all the help they can get. Now we got to dig into the family and that can almost be more challenging. And then the after is the reintegration. We want to improve family behaviors. We want to get rid of things like the secret-keeping, the blame game. 

Codependency obviously is a big issue. By that, I mean, here’s one of my favorite terms of codependency: I’m going to work harder on your problems than you do, then I’m going to sacrifice myself for you, but then I’m going to get mad at you because you’re not being grateful.

That is a beautiful way of looking at codependency. Then the other thing that families do is normalize poor behavior. Work with a therapist, work with support groups and other resources to reintroduce your loved one back into the world. Remember just because the addict is sober does not mean the problem was solved. You know, the journey is continuous and we’re just getting started and we’re just kind of rolling down the road. Addiction affects the family system, so the entire family has to heal. 

Let me tell you a little story about that one, and I think we’re almost done. I have a younger sister, she’s three years younger than me. One of the things she always said (I got sober, I made amends to her). One of the things she said is “Everything was always about you no matter what. Whether it was positive or negative, good or bad, it was all Kevin, all the time.” And she’s like, “That was just kind of exhausting for me. So I just didn’t want to be around you.” I totally understood what she was saying. Addicts and alcoholics get in the middle of the family system and they don’t leave. They refuse to say that, you know, they get in there and they cause lots of drama and crisis and chaos and everybody in the family system has to circle around them and deal with it. Then the only way to really disengage that is to just change the family system, not just change the addict. 

How do we do that? Well, these are my watch words: consistency, accountability, and transparency.

Consistency: you create success through repetition that conquers the old way of life. So let me tell you what I mean by this. This is an old phrase from the 12-step recovery world. I go to regular meetings regularly. When I want to work out, I work out regularly at the same time, every day, four or five, six, seven days a week. If I want to see results, that’s consistency, you know, it’s the same thing. You got to go to therapy consistently. You got to do family therapy consistently. You’ve got to hold the boundaries consistently. You can’t do it once and say, “Oh gosh, it doesn’t work.” You can’t go to therapy once or twice and call it good.

Accountability: it develops a sense of connection and community to help heal and keep the egos in check. It creates vulnerability with a sponsor mentor or a therapist. So we got to have somebody that we’re checking in with that understands, that knows the goods, that knows where the bodies are buried, that knows the secrets. That is critical. It’s absolutely critical. I see that all the time in the families I work with, you know, that I can always tell when I’m working with a family where they’re all kind of giving each other the side look. I’m like, “Okay, what’s going on? What am I not hearing?” “Oh, well, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is what happened.” I’m like, “Okay, well, let’s talk about that.” “Well, we didn’t want to waste a lot of time on that.” I’m like, “Yeah, I think that probably might be what we need to talk about today.” You know, we need to get things up on the top surface. 

Transparency: having everything on the table with nothing hidden in the closet. And that takes time to get to, but that’s the goal is getting to a transparent lifestyle where there’s no secrets. There’s no hustle.

Recovery is a journey. You use consistency, accountability, transparency for all the family members. Remember this is not just the addict or the kid. Continuing with individual and family therapy, 12-step meetings, faith-based community support groups, whatever the family engages in, the answer is, let’s go for it. 

Resources: these are just a quick version. Okay. 12-step meetings. I like CoDA. I like Al-Anon, Celebrate Recovery, Adult Children of Alcoholics, there’s SMART Recovery. There are a lot of family recovery programs that are regional around the country. There’s a great one in Seattle that a woman puts on out there. There’s one out here in Jacksonville. There’s lots of opportunities like that, but you’ve got to plug in to the system and find out who’s who, and what’s what. 

Books: “Codependent No More”. I mean, it’s where I start everybody. It’s by Melody Beattie. I’ll show you, “Codependent No More”. It’s my first start and has lots of discussion questions in the back. Obviously, I think it’s important for families to dig into that. The next one is “Unspoken Legacy,” by Dr. Claudia Black, she’s phenomenal. She really gets into the impact of trauma and addiction within the family. Then “Facing Codependence,” one of my all time favorites from Pia Mellody. And of course my own personal favorite. “The Chronic Hope: Parenting the Addicted child”. 

Videos: I don’t know if you guys have watched this video, (and by the way, if you know anyone that works at the Meadows, they’ll give you one for free) “Pleasure Unwoven” is absolutely incredible. It’s a documentary by Dr. Kevin McCauley, who is in recovery himself, and he discusses his own journey. But he also discusses the biological, medical, psychological, and spiritual sides of addiction and recovery. I love having families watch that because they kind of have that a-ha moment where they’re like, “Oh, now I get it. You know, now I understand that he’s actually different than we are,” and that’s critical. It’s great for therapists as well. I’m a big fan of faith-based support groups, community-based support groups, social networking groups, and you go up onto Facebook and all of them in there, they’re everywhere. Yeah. There’s Moms Fighting Addiction. So engagement is engagement. I think it’s all good.

Let’s see. Questions. Hey guys, thanks for listening. Take a bio break. I mean I know I talk a lot, so I hope that wasn’t too much for you guys. Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

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