Monday, June 28, 2010

When moms get involved?

Edited to add: Just calling attention to the fact that I received a comment from Partnership for a Drug Free America in the comment section, that you guys might wish to read. Thanks!

I was catching up on blogs this morning when I came across Anna's post concerning a recent ad she saw in an issue of Everyday Easy Recipies from Better Homes and Gardens. This ad made the statement "When moms get involved kids don't." (implying parental involvement will prevent kids becoming drug users/addicts). This ad was apparently placed by The Partnership for a Drug Free America.

After I took a number of deeeep, cleansing breaths (yeah, that earthquake you felt was me hyperventilating and falling out of my chair!), I remembered a post I had written about three months ago, I think, for a guest posting on another blog. This other blogger asked me to write something for her to post in a specific portion of her blog and I wrote the piece you will find below. For whatever reason, this was never posted on the intended site (just verified, it is not there), so I am going to post it here.

We never know when a heartbroken parent is going to be googling and searching, a "newbie" so to speak, on this particular road we trudge as parents of addicts. Perhaps someone will come across these thoughts, and find them helpful.

And I hope and pray that The Partnership for a Drug Free America gets a better idea for their next campaign.

My Thoughts on Being the Parent of an Addict

I get sick to my stomach every time I drive by a grade school with the red cups stuck in the chain link fence or the ribbons tied to it, spelling out giant letters "say no to drugs". My personal opinion: What a pathetic waste of our tax dollars to take kids out there for several hours to put those up. My daughter participated in that stuff every year (except the two years we home-schooled, which she requested). And it may have only fueled her curiosity.

I think a more in-your-face approach in junior high school with exposure to the abused and scarred bodies of dead addicts and mandatory attendance at a dozen AA/NA meetings, and perhaps a stay in the hallway of a jail corridor, watching an addict “kick it” for about 36 hours would have more impact.

My daughter was told early on, and often, about her genetic predisposition to alcoholism, and the risks and effects of alcohol/drugs. She endured a close family member’s occasional drunken behavior.

But, it is just so basic, really. You tell a child not to touch the oven door because they will burn their hand. They don't believe you until they do it.

You tell them that if they pick up the snake (drugs) they may get bitten (addicted). But the same immortality complex that makes them think they can take other chances enters into the picture. They don't think THEY will get hooked. They don't think THEY will end up in the jail cell. And once they make that single bad choice to raise a little hell, experiment, etc, it is over for some of them. My daughter said the first time she tried heroin, she said to her friend, "I'm in trouble." She knew in that instant that she would crave/pursue that feeling for the rest of her life.

My beautiful, spunky, spirited, compassionate, smart, hard-working, butterfly girl….. is a bipolar alcoholic/addict. Her drug of choice is heroin.

Do not think that because you homeschool, work your butt off for private Christian school, are room mom, team mom, snack mom, brownie troop mom, girl scout cookie mom, church youth group mom, the mom who works at home and can hand out cookies and juice to the entire neighborhood at 3:20pm, the mom who drives for any and all activities, the mom who never let her kids sleep over without confirming with the other moms just what was going on and who was going to be on site, the mom who had skating parties, pool parties, teeshirt-painting parties, monthly sleep-overs, the mom who considered raising her children to be her God-given privilege and responsibility…..

Don’t think that those things will make any difference at all. By her own admission, my daughter has never been abused in any fashion, was privileged, was given every possible opportunity in life.

And she picked up the snake(s) as an experimenting, risk-taking teenager. By 18, she was an addict.

This disease of addiction is a non-discriminating killer.

We’ve been at this for ten years now. And now she is in prison 250 miles from here.

And if you’ve read this far, let me say that if for no other reason than your sanity, if you face this issue in your family, go to Alanon or Naranon. I know Alanon is supposed to be for family/friends of alcoholics. However, Alanon meetings are far more prevalent in my area than Naranon meetings. And most of the alcoholics that are represented by the attendees at my two favorite meetings are also drug addicts. Indeed, at any Narcotics Anonymous meeting, when they read their literature at the beginning of the meeting, a very pronounced distinction is made that they consider alcohol to be a drug.

So get to whatever meeting you can, and soak up the ESH (experience, strength and hope) of those other members. And keep going back! “It works, if you work it.”

You will learn important concepts like setting healthy boundaries for yourself. An example: It’s not that she can no longer live with us. It’s that we will no longer live with drugs in any fashion, and we will not live with the risk that she will again relapse and steal from us. This puts the focus on US. Not our addict.

You will learn the difference between enabling addiction and assisting with recovery. For everyone, this is just a little bit different. You will learn how to determine what is right for you.

And if at some point (I’m talking after several months!) you decide that Alanon or Naranon is not for you, or you do not wish to participate in a 12-step program of your own, you will have acquired a better foundation of education for dealing with this, in whatever fashion you deem appropriate for you.

For example, along the way you will pick up sayings like the three C’s:

“I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it and I can’t cure it.”

And, “don’t stuff your feelings”, “expectations are premature resentments”, “put the focus back on myself”, etc.

You will hear many of these slogans, and something will click on another day, in another place, when you are in the midst of a situation with your addict and you recognize exactly what a particular slogan referred to… because it’s right in your face at that time. Recognition enables you to choose to step back and appropriately take care of yourself, in a healthy manner.

You’ll take a great deal of comfort in being with others who know your pain up close and personal, themselves. It will help, seeing those who are further along in their journey, living lives of relative serenity and contentment, and you will realize there is HOPE, both for your addict, and also for you.
I’ll close with two little sayings I have found especially helpful. The first, I read on the blog of An Addict In Our Son’s Bedroom (

“I must learn to live in the world of what is, and not in the world of what ought to be.”

And I don’t recall where I happened across this next one, but oh how true:

"There is more to us than we know. If we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less." Kurt Hahn

Never give up Hope!

By Her Big Sad


  1. Wow, you out did yourself with this one. I am going to post this as a link on my blog, too good not to share, if you don't mind. So much truth here and I also hope "The Partnership" finds a more honest ad campaign.

  2. I am glad you posted this. I could not get past my anger to add the more important parts like you did. Thanks,

  3. Speaking of Dare,

    Beth read her DARE essay to the entire school because she expressed her opposition to drugs the most eloquently of all her classmates. So much for DARE!

  4. This was so good, and so important that I did a post on it today and linked over here. Thanks to Anna for bringing it to our attention and to you for saying what I think many of us were thinking - and saying it so well!

  5. yes Anna, much for DARE ! :( In fact, I'm a 4th grade teacher and DARE is now done in 4th grade. Each year now, when the kids sing this DARE song that they do, the combination of that music, the lyrics and my experience as the mom of an addict,along with remembering him as a sweet 4th grader as my students now are,...just about undoes me,..I have to work really hard at not crying while they sing that song.
    As for HBS's post,, this says it all, perfectly stated. Thanks.

  6. Such an important piece! Thank you for writing it. I don't know how many times recently I have heard someone tell a story about their "successful" child, only to be told, "Wow, you've done such a great job parenting!" I, too, talked openly about drugs to my kids, about our family's genetic predisposition to addiction, volunteered at school, played games at home, prayed before dinner, told my kids I loved them every day, met their friends, etc. Maybe I could have done something else at some point, but we'll never know. My son's addiction is not my fault. And it happened, despite all the well-meaning attempts of the school system and us parents.

    God bless you. Thanks for being here!

  7. Thanks for posting this. It is something that so many need to read. There is hope for those of us who live with an alcoholic/addict. And that is where my focus is--I need to stay sane and have a life. The information on Al-Anon is great. Thanks so much.

  8. This is a must read post. Thank you for the insight.

  9. Your post absolutely hit the nail on the head. So many times we are made to feel (by the media, government programs, family, friends, acquaintances) that we are at fault. that if we were better parents this never would have happened. Nothing makes me angrier.
    So thank you for posting this.
    Hugs and prayers

  10. Beautifully written and I completely agree.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing.

    That was "priceless."

  12. Hi Her Big Sad,

    I’m glad that you and other parents were able to express your thoughts about this ad, because it gives us a chance to connect and communicate about this. I also posted a lengthy comment on Anna’s post– you can see in her comments section.

    The goal of the ad was to celebrate moms and remind them of the powerful influence they have over their children. We, at the Partnership, understand how this ad could be negatively construed, especially as a parent of a child with an addiction. Our intention was to empower, not blame.

    For a little background information: the ad’s message was actually developed based on research that shows that kids who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use than those who didn’t get their message at home. Research also shows that parents have far more influence on their kids and the choices they make than they think they do. This post, as well as Anna’s, bring to attention how much more diligent we need to be and include the parents that we represent in the decision-making process.

    "One Powerful Mother" is one of several advertising campaigns of the Partnership, and our programs and offerings speak to many parents - parents focused on prevention, parents whose children are struggling with addiction and parents supporting a child in recovery.

    This support to parents - across the various points of their child's life - is expressed in both our advertising and on our site. Later this summer, we are launching a new treatment community called “Time to Get Help,” which will be specifically for parents who want help with their child's addiction.

    This approach, of developing different messages and resources to reach different parents, comes with the hope that parents and families will be positively impacted by at least one of our messages or programs. For many, they have made a difference. Unfortunately, for others, the disease of addiction will occur despite parents' best efforts.

    Thank you for writing this post and thanks also to everyone who commented. The Partnership has and will continue to list and work with parents to make sure we provide the best messages and information to families that need it the most.

    Please feel free to reach me at with any thoughts and comments – I would love to hear from you.

    Online Community Manager
    Partnership for a Drug-Free America

  13. Hi Olivia,
    I appreciate hearing from you, and having a greater understanding of the thinking behind that ad.

    Your sentence "Unfortunately, for others, the disease of addiction will occur despite parents' best efforts" pretty much says it all. Given the HUGE number of addicts there are in our country today, I guess that your ad campaign might have been received better if it had stated from the beginning, "Research shows that when moms get involved, some kids may not." Or, "some research indicates that when moms get involved, kids are 50% less likely to use drugs." The headline as it was read by Anna and others, was interpreted differently.

    I find that 50% number difficult to believe. Especially given numerous other studies you read about from time to time, that indicate that far greater than 50% of kids a certain age have already tried some type of drug. In fact an anonymous study at my daughter's high school involving simply checking off drugs you've tried, whether you have tried or are a smoker, etc, resulted in the realization that 70% of the student body had ALREADY made the choice to take that chance, and pick up the "snake". That was twelve years ago. I don't know. I've always felt one could make statistics pretty much say anything one wanted to, but in NO way, am I stating that your information is false. Just that I find it difficult to believe.

    Our nation's best and brightest are dying daily, or dying in every sense except vital signs. Rehabs are full. Beds are seemingly never available unless you have a lot of money, or are a young person at the beginning of this journey and have not yet lost your insurance. Where I am, you wait weeks between the decision to seek sobriety, and a chance at a county bed in a rehab to learn to use the tools necessary to stay sober.

    I do appreciate your comment here. I think that communication is hugely important as our nation faces this growing crisis amoung our children (young and older).

  14. Loved this son even says that DARE made him curious!

  15. I still think the ad campaign has a righteous tone. This ad implies that "good " mothers save their children. Addicts' moms have missed something and "allowed" their kids to take a wrong turn.

  16. Thanks for posting additional info to Anna's posting. What a great post you wrote.
    Regarding the ad, at an Al-Anon meeting this week, the mother of a 20-year-old daughter started crying as she brought up the ad she saw. I approached her after the meeting and let her know she wasn't the only one upset by it.
    It's been a bit controversial I think, but I like the Australian government's ad campaign, "You don't know what it will do to you." THOSE ads might actually work! (Here they are on YouTube)
    I appreciate Partnership writing in to the blogs. I know it wasn't their intention to hurt parents' feelings. The ads still upset me though.
    God bless.
    And thanks again for this post.

  17. That might have been the intent Olivia, but all you did was kick us when we were already down! IF you really want to know what it takes to prevent kids from using drugs, point them to these blogs when they are 10. Make these posts their English assignments, for we are not scholars and all have grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. Forces kids to go to the graves of teens who OD or if they are caught with drugs, have them spend a week with a parent of an addict. Let them experience the depth of the pain they cause. Or, just cut off their left arm and let them know that is basically what they have done to their MOM.

  18. What a great post! Despite the aforementioned three C's parents are often blamed for their children's addiction. My sister is a heroin addict and for a long time I laid the blame at my parents feet too - they had her too old, they didnt love her enough etc etc. It was just the hurt talking. I am a parent now too and terrified of my children becoming addicts given I have seen what it does first hand. I am learning to let go. The most loving, attentive and supportive parents can have addicts as children.

  19. Wow, that was awesome. I totally agree about the DARE program. My son who is a recovering heroin addict showed me a series of tapes on u-tube that a young man named Ben who was a heroin addict made. He actually taped his life as an addict, and it is powerful. My son said that this is what they should show you in high school so you know the real horrors of what this drug can do. Unfortunately Ben lost his battle with heroin and passed away. This is a must see documentary for all.


    This is the link to Ben's five part story, if you copy and past it into your browser it will bring you there.