Tag Archives: substance abuse

Addiction’s impact goes far beyond the individual

The stereotype scenario of an addict often involves the image of a single individual hiding away to engage in drug or alcohol use. And while these activities may occur in solitary settings, they are far from isolated incidents.

Mary Roufa, community service manager for Rosecrance, says anyone who has dealt with drug or alcohol dependence directly or through the life of a loved one knows that it’s impossible to completely separate the addiction from the lives of others.

“Addiction is a family disease,” says Roufa. “Like any other chronic illnesses, it impacts all members of the family as family members live their lives in response to the manifestations of that illness.”

In fact, the lives of many family members can be altered long before an addict faces his or her issues. “Family members have a tendency to tolerate poor behavior and warning signs with their loved ones more so than the same behaviors coming from a stranger,” Roufa says. “They know the wonderful qualities of their loved ones and rationalize the unacceptable behaviors displayed by the addict.”

Addicts are well aware of the leeway they get from family members, and can act accordingly. “Addicts are very skilled at eliciting guilt from their family members when they attempt to hold them accountable,” she says.

In some cases, the lack of accountability is compounded directly or unintentionally by loved ones’ actions. In either case, the enabling from family members allows the addict to continue down his or her path of self-destruction. Enabling can take many forms, according to Roufa, including making excuses for the addict, giving them money or paying their bills, allowing certain privileges – like the use of a cell phone or a car – even though those privileges get used to fuel connections to drugs or alcohol. In some cases, the enabling is more obvious. Family members pay fines and legal fees incurred by the addict or bail them out of jail if they’re arrested. These small and large actions often stem from a family member’s reluctance to face reality. “There’s a horrible sense of shame that family members feel when it comes to admitting their loved one may have a problem, until the problem becomes so huge it can’t be ignored anymore,” Roufa says.

When support fails

Still, many family members think they’re helping, or in many cases, just being there to provide support. But at some point, supporting is often confused for enabling. “It can be difficult for family members to distinguish supporting someone they love from enabling destructive behaviors,” says Roufa. “But family members need to actually see and understand how they think helping their loved one is actually hurting them, which is the last thing a family member wants to do.”

Again, manipulation of the family member can play a role in dealing with addiction in the family. “Addicts may threaten to never see their family again, or offer up some scenario that causes a family member to envision a horrible outcome,” says Roufa. “But family members often realize they do not have the power to make their loved one stop, but they do have control over what they will support and do to help the addict. They stop enabling and allow the natural and logical consequences to happen for their addict.

And it’s this decision, Roufa says, that often triggers the addict’s realization that he or she needs help. “That is how addicts can come to the conclusion finally that maybe they don’t want to keep doing what they are doing and ask for help,” she says.

Ultimately, Roufa says that family members need to rely on the Three C’s when it comes to dealing with a loved one’s addiction: You did not Cause it, you Can’t Control it and you Can’t Cure it. “Family is not so powerful to cause someone else’s disease,” Roufa says. “They’ve tried to control it and that doesn’t work. And they are not so powerful to be able to cure it, especially since there is no cure for addiction. There is only the hope to manage it.”



Challenges continue for recovering addicts even after discharge

Facing down an addiction can be tough. Living in its wake can be tougher.

In fact, it’s often helpful to avoid thinking in time-focused terms because recovery is an ongoing process, says Glenda Burns, transition specialist at the Rosecrance Adolescent Treatment Center.

“Just because a person stops using does not mean that he or she is cured. Addiction is cunning, powerful and baffling,” says Burns. “No matter how much clean time a person has it is crucial to that they understand that the disease of addiction is patient and it will wait for the right moment to do what it has always done: hurt.”

Burns says a recovering addict has to deal with the pressures of a potential relapse often, and in most cases, they’re fully aware that they can’t rely on past successes to stay clean. But Burns says they should rely on the processes, lessons and encounters they participated in while in recovery. “Every interaction makes a difference. I believe that every client that we come into contact with wants to stay clean and sober and will take something with them when they leave treatment,” Burns says. “It may be something huge or something as small as a staff member staying behind to listen.”

And those memories and lessons don’t come with an expiration date. “Even if the client chooses not to stay clean and sober, there will always be something that they will remember,” Burns says.

And for many, those memories come with strings attached – strings that the former patient can use to pull him or herself back to Rosecrance to be a positive force for others. “There are clients who have left and have stayed clean for years that come back and give freely what was given to them, which is hope,” Burns says.

Throwing out a lifeline

Rosecrance’s Recovery Lifeline is a post-treatment resource that’s always available to Rosecrance alumni and family members. It’s a phone-based continuing care service which provides support to former patients whenever needed, and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“The Recovery Lifeline is important because it is a comfort to clients and the families when they know that they will have someone that they can call for support,” says Burns, adding that the service is offered to any client and family that completes the program.

For newly released patients, Lifeline counselors check in with them for six months after they leave the program. “When a client is discharged from treatment it can be scary for everyone involved,” says Burns. “Sometime just knowing that there is someone to turn to is a comfort.

Burns says that Rosecrance suggests that each client get a sponsor when they leave treatment but Burns says the chances of that happening are very slim. “It’s easier for clients and the family to call someone they already have a rapport with,” Burns says. “It’s amazing when you’re calling clients and they know your voice and you can tell that they are excited to talk with you, or when a client calls and they tell you that you’re a day behind with your check-in with them – that’s priceless. For some clients and families it is the only support they will have.”

12 Steps offer recovering addicts structure and stability

For those who have never had an addiction, the 12 Steps are often the stuff of movies and novels, a plot device when a character is battling addictive demons. But for the many recovering addicts across the world, the 12 Steps are tangible ideas that require thought and action. For those individuals, the 12 Steps are indeed a pathway to a better life.

In the same way, to the uninitiated, the term “sponsor” may be interchangeable with “coach,” “mentor” or even “friend.” But for people looking to overcome an addiction, a sponsor can be all of those and more. In theory, a sponsor is someone who will guide a newcomer through the 12 Steps, answer questions and share their experiences and hopes.

“When someone enters recovery it’s like moving into a new community. Just adjusting to life without drugs and alcohol is a major challenge,” says Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator for Rosecrance Health Network.

Sponsors are a key part of the 12-step program, a set of principles that outline an addiction-recovery plan. Although originally created by Alcoholics Anonymous as part of its recovery program, the steps have been adapted by other organizations and individuals as well. Sponsors help participants follow the steps and are often essential to the success of the program. In return, the sponsored recovering addicts often play an important role in keeping the sponsors out in front of their addictive tendencies. “Learning what the program is about, the language, the process and meeting new people in recovery are some of what sponsorship is about,” says Garrison. “Having someone available to answer your questions and being available when you’re struggling not only helps the newcomer, but keeps the sponsor clean and sober as well.”

The 12 Steps

To understand the importance of a sponsor and the recovery process, it’s helpful to take a look at the 12 Steps themselves:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

According to Garrison, the 12-step program “works if you work it,” but isn’t without pitfalls. That’s why sponsors are vital to helping recovering addicts get through the rough spots. “Basically, just attending meetings will not keep anyone clean and sober,” Garrison says. “There has to be action. That’s where finding a sponsor, working the steps and helping others come in.”

Rosecrance alumni are a great resource for people currently in the program. “It’s all about support,” Garrison says. “The Alumni Program is a great way to practice Step 12. It’s very clear to someone who is working a 12-step program that you can’t keep your recovery unless you give it away by sharing your experience with others, and that’s what alumni members do.”

Alumni offer assistance, information and support those recovering addicts going through the 12 Steps. At times, the necessary support comes in the form of a phone call or visit from a sponsor. Other times, it can come from reference material or different forms of media. In a contemporary twist on the original, it can arrive in the form of 140-character Tweets, which Rosecrance, as @rosecrance12twe, often sends out as “wisdom for recovery and life.” A recent example focuses on owning up to one’s mistakes: “I am flawed. So, I work to further my emotional and spiritual health. When I am wrong, I admit it and try to fix it.”

Battling addiction and beyond

Garrison says that many people continue to use the 12 Steps even after they learn to overcome their addiction. It becomes part of their day-to-day life and an important toolbox when dealing with others. “When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, someone cuts you off in traffic, your daughter shrinks your favorite sweater in the dryer – these are all situations where one is powerless and can cause emotions to flare,” says Garrison. Applying the first three steps can help you handle the situation without a total meltdown. Looking at your part in these events can help you see you have a choice in how you react. If you do overreact you can choose to make amends and grow from the experience.”

Garrison says continued use of the 12 Steps is also a way to strengthen relationships with others throughout a lifetime. “When we find something that helps us feel better, our natural instinct is to share this wonderful plan,” Garrison says. “The more you practice the 12 Steps, the less stress you experience and the closer you become to others in your life.”

Beyond New Year’s resolution, the daily challenge of recovery

A new year presents new challenges, new opportunities and for those addicted to drugs or alcohol, a new chance at recovery. As with all endeavors, that long-term goal has to begin with inches instead of miles.

“An example I use with people in recovery is to think about walking up a huge hill. Where do you put your focus?” asks Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator for Rosecrance Health Network. “You look at where you are. If you look at the top of the hill, it looks too hard. People who run marathons get that. You can’t look too far ahead at the hill you have to climb.”

Garrison, who coordinates alumni groups and recovery-focused workshops for people who have been through Rosecrance treatment programs, says setting goals is important but the goals must be reachable. “Even if you just start with what your goals are for today, prioritize them and make sure they are attainable,” she says.

Change can affect everyone

Garrison notes that goals can be met and true change can occur once patients decide they want to get clean.

“I never in a million years thought I would have a year clean. Treatment saved my life, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” says Jim Smith (not his real name). “I was near death when I walked into detox, but Rosecrance taught me the tools to continue my recovery after I completed the inpatient program.”

Concerning recovery, the top priority is the improved life of the patient, but there is little doubt that family members and friends benefit from their loved one’s rehabilitation as well.

“They not only saved her, they helped two caring parents understand the challenges of addiction,” says a parent whose child entered a Rosecrance recovery program and wishes to remain anonymous. “We are no longer embarrassed to talk about her addiction, largely because we’re so proud of the strides she’s made toward becoming a clean, productive adult.”

Another parent echoed those feelings. “Our daughter is at home, registered for college and has 11 months clean,” says the parent, who also wishes to remain anonymous. It is such a joy to have our daughter back.”

Looking back, looking ahead

Garrison says it’s important for recovering addicts to take stock of the different milestones they achieve along their journey toward recovery.

“It’s good to focus on the last year and think about what we’ve learned,” she says. “One of the things I hear when talking with alumni is the importance of practicing the tenth step of the 12 Step program, which is: ‘Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it,’ which asks those in recovery to acknowledge mistakes they make and to work to make them right. That’s good advice for anyone, and it especially resonates with people in recovery.”

While goals are important, Garrison acknowledges that beating an addiction can still be a day-to-day struggle, especially when life deals you a bad hand. “Being in recovery isn’t a magic solution for life’s troubles. When ‘life happens,’ and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, people in recovery have to find ways of coping beyond using substances,” she says. “There’s nothing that using isn’t going to make even worse. The best advice is to follow the suggestions of the 12 Step program and work your recovery program. Bad things will still happen, but you don’t have to drink or use because of them.”

Smith, who says he was a substance abuser for 27 years before entering the Rosecrance program, is grateful for his new life and he is confident that recovery is possible for others. “If I can get clean, I want people to know that they can get clean, too,” he says.

Rosecrance offers support and educational workshops through its Alumni Program. Rosecrance Alumni Café meets the third Monday of every month at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus, 3815 Harrison Ave., Rockford, IL.  Alumni who live in the western suburbs of Chicago are preparing to launch a Rosecrance Alumni Café in Naperville in the near future. For more information, call Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator, at 815-387-2537 or email her at mgarrison@rosecrance.org.

Taking action once signs of teen addiction are confirmed

Finding drugs or alcohol in a child’s room can be cause for alarm – but not counterproductive overreaction – for parents. Previously, we looked at factors a parent can use to determine whether to seek outside help for a child’s potential addiction. This week we’ll consider what parents should do once they have decided to address the child’s potential addiction.

First and foremost, says Mary Egan, director of outreach at Rosecrance Health Network, parents should stand firm against pressure from their child or other family members or friends to avoid taking action. “The most dangerous course of action is to do nothing and chalk it up as a teenage rite of passage,” says Egan, adding that the initial conversation with the teen about the seriousness and consequences of drug use is an important first step — but only a first step. After that initial conversation, parents need to create a course of action to communicate consequences for alcohol and drug use.

“In a firm but caring manner, parents need to explain that alcohol and drug use are illegal and unhealthy and can result in problems at home, school and with the law, and can potentially result in substance abuse and addiction,” says Egan. She emphasizes that parents should always seek out a professional consultation about what is going on in their child’s life, especially when drugs, alcohol or paraphernalia are found in the home.

Still, teens may work extra hard to convince their parents that they don’t have a problem, often playing one parent against the other or trying to make their parents feel guilty about  their concern and plan of action. “A substance abuser will use emotional manipulation to hijack a parent’s normal response to evaluate the seriousness of the substance use,” says Egan. “For example, a teen might say they promise to quit but then just get sneakier.” Egan says teens often say they have just “experimented” without divulging the full extent of use to avoid parents’ disappointment.

Sending the right message

It’s important that a child has a clear understanding of his or her parents’ position on drug and alcohol use, says Mary Roufa, manager of community services and support for Rosecrance, which is why it’s especially important for parents to take action if they feel that a teen’s drug or alcohol use is a cause for concern.

“Not addressing the issue will be interpreted by the adolescent that it is OK. Explain to your child that this is a serious health issue and that you care about the child too much to let it slide,” says Roufa. “Overreacting by yelling and name calling, and then not taking any course of action or grounding them forever can produce the opposite reaction from what the parent intended. It can cause your child to rebel against your authority or to retreat further into substance abuse.”

For many family members, the very idea of asking a third party to get involved in a loved one’s potential drug addiction can be difficult, especially when a child promises to quit. “Many parents want to believe that their child is just experimenting because the alternative is a very scary thought,” Egan says. “Seeking outside help is important to evaluate the extent of the problem. However, uncertainty about what steps to take, shame about what people will think, or guilt that ‘I somehow caused this behavior in my child’ or fear that it might really be a problem are common roadblocks.”

Parents should work with the resources available to them, including school counselors, family doctors and other appropriate individuals. Also, the addiction counselor plays an important role. In addition to providing some possible guidance, an addiction counselor can reinforce to your child that you’re serious about dealing with his or her potential addiction.

Determining whether signs of addiction require attention

Whether you’re doing an intentional search for marijuana in your daughter’s room or just happen to come across a bottle of Jack Daniel’s while gathering up your son’s laundry, you’re probably more than a little concerned about what to do next.

Do you confront the issue head on, demand answers and issue punishments, or do you take a more measured approach and ease into a conversation with your child about personal responsibility? Or should you consider it just another aspect of teen life and treat it with little concern?

Mary Egan, director of outreach at Rosecrance Health Network, says finding alcohol, drugs or paraphernalia in a child’s room is a serious warning sign, one that addiction counselors see as an indication that drug or alcohol use has progressed beyond experimentation. Therefore, it should be treated as a serious matter by parents.

“When a teen brings a drug into their home, it can signify that drug use is becoming more normalized and habitual,” says Egan. “Teens who are experimenting usually don’t carry the drug or paraphernalia around in their personal effects.”

Still, parents should be cautious about rushing to conclusions until they’ve had a chance to speak with their child to get a full picture of what’s going on, especially since many teens will try to pass off the situation by saying that the drug or paraphernalia belongs to a friend.

Keeping track of patterns, habits

Egan recommends being proactive when dealing with a child’s potential addiction, suggesting that parents keep an eye out for changes in grades, friends and other aspects of their child’s life.

When Egan and her team at Rosecrance assess a teen for addiction, they pay special attention to the following issues:

  • changes in mood
  • changes in interaction with family members
  • whether the child follows home rules and curfew
  • changes in school grades, attendance and discipline
  • changes in previously enjoyed sports and activities
  • shifting friendships from one group of teens to another
  • increased overnight sleepovers at a friend’s house
  • signs of the child coming home under the influence, smelling of unusual odors or engaging in unusual behavior

If parents notice changes in these areas, they need to follow up with more questions to determine whether substance abuse is an issue.

Parents are often frustrated by the casual attitude their children have toward the use of drugs. Indeed, many teenagers think it’s OK to experiment with drugs and alcohol because they see adults using substances and hear messages in popular culture that condone overuse.

“Normal teenage development involves an ebb and flow between adult and childlike behaviors throughout adolescence as they progress toward full adulthood and try out adult-type behaviors and choose who they want to be,” Egan says. “We know, however, that (young brains are) not fully developed until the mid-20s — especially the areas involving judgment and critical thinking — so making a decision about substance use is flawed by a brain that doesn’t fully understand what the consequences can be for experimentation.”

Experimentation may rapidly become abuse

The casual light in which teens may view drugs makes early action even more important. Egan says the adolescent brain is also very susceptible to the effects of drugs and alcohol, which can result in addiction much more quickly than an adult. “A teen can progress from experimentation to abuse and addiction in a very short time span, especially with the potency of drugs available to them today like marijuana, prescription pills and heroin,” she says.

As difficult as it may be to have a conversation with your teen about drug use, it’s essential.

“This is the time for you to be the parent and not the friend,” Egan says. “Holding your child accountable is one of the most important things a parent can do.”

This article will soon be followed up with important and helpful information on this difficult issue. Up next: How to discuss your child’s potential addiction

If you suspect your teen is abusing substances, it’s time to seek a professional evaluation. Rosecrance will answer your questions and walk you through each step to get the help your family needs. Call Rosecrance at 888-928-5278 or go to www.rosecrance.org. Life’s waiting.


Relying on circadian rhythms to help teens

Parents and children are known to share terms of endearment before calling it a night, but for moms and dads with teens in the house, those bedtime declarations of affection are often accompanied by the frustrated and futile command: “Go to sleep!”

As maddening as it is, it’s normal.

“According to research, the natural circadian rhythm of teens makes them mentally unready for sleep when the rest of the family is yawning,” says Dr. Thomas E. Wright, chief medical officer and senior vice president for medical affairs with Rosecrance Health Network. “By the time a typical teen naturally drifts off, parents are halfway through their time of rest.”

According to the National Institute of General Medical Science, the circadian rhythm is present in most living things, and includes the physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle with an emphasis on responses to light and darkness.

Wright, a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist, says the sleep cycle of an adolescent can change dramatically in ways that mirror changes in their physical, social, psychological and biologic makeup.

A significant change is the gradual shift in the timing of sleep, which begins around the age of 13. At that point, adolescents show signs of being more awake and aware during evening activities. They also require more sleep. In fact, their need for sleep peaks at 13 and begins to decrease about 14 minutes per year until they reach the age of 20. In other words, your 17-year-old son may not be engaging in an act of defiance when he’s up at all hours of the night. Instead, he simply may be responding to physiological makeup. Night-time stimulations like cell phones, computers, TVs and video games can only add to a teen’s late-night shift in sleeping patterns.

Still, getting adequate sleep each night clearly is important. Even limited sleep deprivation can result in cognitive challenges, psychological problems, hallucinations and delusions.

As a result of this shift in the timeliness of sleep, several studies have indicated that schools could delay their morning start times to more align with the natural sleep rhythms of their student population. This delayed start could help students who may have trouble falling asleep before the early a.m. hours, and could result in improved school performance and better behavior.

Many school systems across the nation have shifted to later start times for middle and high school students to bend to teenagers’ circadian rhythm.

Adjusting hours results in improvements

In the fall of 2010, Rosecrance officials decided to review the daily schedule and make modifications to allow teens in substance-abuse programs to get more sleep at Rosecrance Griffin Williamson campus, our 78-bed facility in Rockford. This change affected more than just patients. In fact, the work schedules of nearly every staff member and volunteer had to be revised in an effort to modify the schedule for therapy, school, recreation, meals and medication.

After the schedule changed, Rosecrance officials noticed improvements in patients’ mood, alertness, and motivation. Patients were satisfied with the new schedule and liked the changes, with several reporting that they felt better rested and less stressed. Counselors and other staff members indicated that patients seemed to be more motivated in the morning and had generally improved attitudes.

While admitting that it is difficult to officially measure if the schedule change has actually impacted patients and staff in one way or another, Jason Gorham, administrator of adolescent services at the Rosecrance Griffin Williamson Campus, says the overall feeling is that the longer sleep and later bed times have helped teens be more engaged in the various aspects of their care.

“It has re-established the importance of self-care, speaks to the needs of adolescents, and allows for meditation and journal time at night to take place in the manner in which it is designed,” he says.