Parent Survival Skills Training (PSST)

Discussion in 'Substance Abuse' started by antsmom, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    Ken is a moderator in the juvenile justice system's parent survival site, he is a parent with a difficult child:

    Hi Jan,
    This is a really good series. If you think it is good and want to share with the folks on conduct disorders that would be great.


    Begin forwarded message:

    From: "Parent Survival Skills Training (PSST)"
    Date: January 29, 2008 9:14:50 AM EST
    Subject: Parent Survival Skills Training (PSST)

    Parent Survival Skills Training (PSST)
    Losing Your Teenager and Gaining an Adult - Part 1 of 6 Written by Lori

    I am a mother in a Middle-America, double income family that consists of my husband of 30 years, my daughter age 27 and my son age 21. I grew up in the inner city where I met my future husband in high school; we married after college and moved to the suburbs to start our family. This is the story of my son's drug addiction that started in his teenage years told in six parts.

    I describe the events leading to my realization that I had lost my teenager to drugs and the steps I took to cope with that realization, get my son help, and rebuild my family with our new adult son in drug recovery. I am offering my story to help raise the awareness of the teen drug problem, to help destroy the stereotype of the drug addiction as being an inner city issue, and to share some of the lessons I have learned with the hope that they may benefit you and your family.

    “So, when you think about your teenager or young adult drug addict, think for a second, how old is he? Of course, you know your child’s age. However, I am referring to that split-second between when you think of your child and when you remember his actual age. ."

    Part One

    If you have a teenager that has a problem with drugs, you are probably consumed with his drug addiction. In fact, you have probably been consumed with his addiction for years.

    Most, if not all, of your energy and focus have been on your addicted teenager and his drug abuse. You and your family have not had much time to enjoy the typical things that teenagers do. In fact, you probably have no happy memories of the teen years of your drug-addicted child. And you have not had that typical parent / teenager relationship that you so much needed. You have not experienced being a parent of a typical teenager and you have not shared in all those events with your teenager that you just assumed would happen.

    So, when you think about your teenager or young adult drug addict, think for a second, how old is he? Of course, you know your child’s age. However, I am referring to that split-second between when you think of your child and when you remember his actual age.

    Let's do a little exercise. Sit back. Relax and take a deep breath. Now think about your child and try to force the image into slow motion. Now notice him for the first split-second.

    What does he look like? And ... how old is he?

    My son is 21 years old. That’s the reality. He is a recovering heroin addict and has spent time in behavior modification programs, drug rehabs, and halfway houses since he was 17 till he was 20 years old. He is a grown man now, living in Miami. He attends the University of Miami, does well in school, has his own apartment, has a job, and pays all of his own bills. And there is no sign of drug use. He doesn't do everything that he has been taught in recovery, but he does some of those things and is learning what recovery means to him. He is making some mistakes, none serious at this point, and he is building a new life for himself. He remains healthy, looks great, has a plan for his future, and we are very proud of him.

    However, when I think of my son, for that split second before I remember that he is 21 years old, he is only 9 years old. There is a part of me that still sees him as a 9 year old little boy, and there is a piece of the mother deep inside of me that needs him to be 9 years old still. I don't know why it is 9 years old. I would think that logically it should be 13 years old, because that is when his drug use started. Or maybe 14 years old, because that was the last, and only, typical teenage event that he attended. That was when he went to homecoming during his freshman year in high school with his girlfriend from a neighboring school district. Or maybe 16 years old, because that was the last time he played varsity ice hockey. However, these events are plagued with the typical disasters that we all are familiar with and know is evitable with their drug use. So I guess it is understandable why I do not want to remember these moments. So for me, I picture my son as a 9 year-old.

    I still need my son to be 9 years old, because I am still waiting for all those teenage things that have yet to happen. I am still waiting for a relationship with my teenage son. Helping him with high school projects, driving him to school because he missed the bus, talking about his friends, a girlfriend, seeing him at school events, helping him pick a suit for the prom, having those special moments with him when everyone else has gone to bed, hanging his senior pictures by his sister’s, talking to him about who to invite to his graduation party and watching him grow into a man. I picture myself spending time with him talking about life, talking about what he wants from life, spending weekends with him visiting universities, and watching him begin to realize his dreams. I am still waiting for those moments. And I continue to search my memory for these events, but they never happened. How can he be 21 years old?

    And how can he be a man? He was just a little boy for his last family birthday party, at least the last one that I remember fondly … the last one that I remember easily. He was just a little boy for that birthday party. When I think of celebrating my son’s birthday, the picture that comes to my mind is that of my little boy blowing out the candles of his birthday cake on our back deck on the 4th of July. I have no easy memories of a birthday party with him as a teenager. In fact, I was often concerned about inviting the family for his birthday, because I was never sure he would be home. I never knew when his drug use would take him away from home, for a few hours or a few days. So, I stopped inviting the family. I have no good memories of my son’s birthdays during his teen years, and it is getting to the point that I will have no such memories at all. How can he be 21 years old? What happened to all those other birthday parties?

    Certainly he cannot be attending college already! I have yet to attend his high school commencement! Our township just built a new Community Center, and we are planning to have his graduation party there. He plays on the High School ice-hockey team, so we will have many people to invite. I still need to plan for this party, determine the final invitee list, decide on the food, music, get the decorations together, order a cake, etc., etc, etc. There are so many things left to do.!

    But wait! He has already graduated high school. He did so in placement. He was not home, and we were not there. There are no senior pictures; there were no graduation parties, and no friends to whom to say “congratulations.” Yet, my mind still waits for his commencement celebration. My mind still plans for his graduation party and my mind still waits to select his senior picture. I continue to slip back into these unfinished memories and a piece of me still expects them to happen.

    To this day, years after he graduated high school, I still find it painful to attend an event at the Community Center. We should have been able to celebrate our son’s graduation, but he didn’t graduate from our school district. We should have been able to have the party I was planning, but he wasn’t home when he graduated. This just wasn’t supposed to be this way! And it still is physically painful when I remember how it truly was, and realize how it will never be.

    And he certainly cannot be finished playing hockey! There are many games left, many play-off games left, and championship games yet to play. I have not seen his last game. That can’t be possible! And I have yet to attend his Senior Night at the High School hockey rink, because my son has yet to be a senior on the team. I haven't attended any of those planning meetings where all of us Moms plan a tribute to our seniors, when one of those seniors is my son. And where have these Moms been? I have missed them.

    However, my son certainly is finished playing hockey and was so much too early. He has lost that special relationship that occurs when you are part of team, but I have lost that special relationship with all the mothers of the players. We were a special team too, and I miss that. I miss that ‘Mom’ time before the game, the excitement of watching our boys play as we all cheer together in the stands, spending weekends with the Moms as the team participates in tournaments, planning team dinners, working with all the parents for the team banquet, and many more countless events. There are many things that I have missed, many people that I still miss, and many memories that I still wait for. But these memories will never be.

    My mind is full with so many memories that will never be; regardless of how much I try to force them to be, they still will never be.

    End of Part 1 - Come back to read part two next week

    A brief preview of next week...

    “And at that moment I knew it was over. … The hockey player that lived in my son’s soul had died. And my son’s dreams died with him. And that realization began to rush over me leaving a hole in my life that will never be filled. “
  2. jgreen03

    jgreen03 New Member

    That was very difficult to read. My difficult child should be graduating this year and isn't. It's hard as a parent because we are missing out too. The parties the planning. The last football game. Prom.
  3. everywoman

    everywoman Active Member

    Nice to see you Janet. Missed you.
  4. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    Hi Janet! That was so heartfelt. It was very real to me and it gets to me emotionally because I have lost that too and will never have it for my difficult child. But they are still alive - their are parents i know that have lost their children to death and they will never see them again on this earth - with life their is hope. Good to hear from you.
  5. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It


    So VERY glad to hear from you!! I hope each day brings blessings and some peace.

    Hugs and love,


    ps. This is a GREAT site!!
  6. DDD

    DDD Well-Known Member

    That is too painfully real. I had to scan read so I won't get overwhelmed. Thanks, however, for sharing. I will read it more carefully next time.

    I hope you are doing well. Hugs. DDD
  7. Ephchap

    Ephchap Active Member

    Wow, I almost could have written that, though some parts are a little different. I think we all can relate to that mother's story - the story of missing out on those teen years and all the things our difficult child, and as a result, us mothers/fathers, missed out on.

    Thanks for posting it.

    It's so good to see you. Hope things are going well for you and yours.

    Sending hugs,
  8. PonyGirl

    PonyGirl Warrior Parent

    Thank you janet. I have been thinking of you & tony a lot lately, I think because kaleb's Groundhog Birthday is coming up fast! Can he really be turning 3 years old this year???!! :gifts:

    This reading struck me so hard. It is so true for me with my difficult child. The hope I can give other parents? I AM GETTING ALL THIS TODAY WITH MY easy child!!! :beautifulthing::jumphappy:

    Not a day goes by that I don't stop and thank the stars that I was blessed with TWO sons, and I can't put into words how grateful I am that easy child is in my life today.

    I believe I am more grateful than the parents of easy child's friends, that easy child's everyday things mean more to me, because of my experience with difficult child. (Or, lack of experience of the "normal" stuff) And, I think it means more to easy child, too.

    Just one quick example: easy child plays on the JV Basketball team at school. Last week, the morning of one of his games, he said to me, "I'm gonna shoot a 3-pointer in the game tonite." Lo & Behold, he got the ball, took the open shot, and scored the 3-pointer!! I turned to the parent in the stands behind me, gave a Hi-5, turned back to the court, and easy child was giving me the "Number 1" sign.

    You guys, that's my best Mom Moment so far! :warrior:

  9. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    Ken is a great man who still valiantly works with the challenges of his own difficult child, what an inspiration he is!
    his saying is:

    2 Corinthians 4
    8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

    thanks for asking about us as well-God is still working in all our lives in His own mysterious way ;) . Kaleb will be "4" on Feb 2, he is with me for the week. This Friday, boyfriend and I are having a party with 35 people and 3 dogs to celebrate his birthday (Kaleb loves them and I have none, so folks are bringing some for him to play with...LOL) :)

    Each day brings hope and peace. May your own lives be strengthened and blessed as well!
  10. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    I miss you ant's mom! I am glad you are doing ok. Thanks for passing the encouragement on. I need it.
  11. WhymeMom?

    WhymeMom? No real answers to life..

    Thanks for the my "awakening" I feel I have passed this stage.....I have come to the realization that I won't get to see him graduate from HS, (he got his GED), he has blown off several tries at college courses and will probably no longer get the chance to return, he is sitting in jail trying to fight off a Habitual offender label that can keep him behind bars for 30 to life, so although I have dealt with the past it is his "future" that scares me.....I haven't ever visited my son in jail, so could not see him before I die......He has stopped communicating with us so not sure what or whom he is relying on for help....maybe no one.......So waiting for the next installment......thanks for posting......
  12. neajle

    neajle New Member

    Hi Ant's mom. I was just checking in to see how everybody is doing. Thank you for sharing that -- I'm sure all of us can identify with that. I still feel cheated for all of those teenage years, things that we missed together, things that he missed. I don't believe I will ever get over it.

    God bless you and yours

  13. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    So happy to see you on here! So many of us have missed you (it's so weird, I never go on this forum, but I popped in and say your post!).

    Hope all is as good as can be!

  14. meowbunny

    meowbunny New Member

    Janet, hope this means you're coming back -- at least often enough to say hi and let us know how things are going. Happy belated birthday to Kaleb!
  15. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member


    When dealing with a teenage drug addict, you will find many typical teenage events that never happen and many memories that will never be. And regardless of how much we try to force them to be, they still will never be. And there are still many more memories that are painful and we would rather forget.

    However, there is one memory that remains very poignant in my thoughts. One very painful memory that stays with me like it happened yesterday. A memory that starts well, leads to a catastrophic event, and ends with a very painful but enlightening evening. That memory seems to never leave, remains very vivid, and sneaks in at arbitrary moments of my life.

    My son’s hockey coach is a wonderful man and he cultivates a relationship among the players by taking them on social events. So this memory starts with him and the last event my son attended with the team. It was a baseball game to kick-off the new hockey season. However, my son was late and he missed his ride to the park; because he was trying to score dope, and he was successful. However on this night, one bag of heroin was not enough. He bought two, got himself to the park…late, and took it before he entered the park. He quickly began to crash. The two bags of heroin were too much for him. He collapsed, and it was obvious to the team that he was over dosing. His coach cradled him like a baby, kept him conscious, and worked him through to stability. He stayed with my son as other team fathers stayed with the other players. My son did survive this night, but it was the beginning of the end of any hope that my son will live his teen years as they were supposed to be.

    And then there was the aftermath. There were two members of the hockey board that were not happy with these events and yielded many threats to the coach for their interpretation of the events; Also threats of the police and school officials to my son. The later was almost humorous at this point. As if they didn’t already know my son, or I really didn’t have them on speed dial on my cell phone already. And I almost laughed when the threat was given. But regardless, this was an ugly scene. How would my son recover from this and still play hockey?

    You see, that was the mode that I was still in at this point with regard to coping with my son’s addiction. I was still trying to hold his life together and minimize the damage his drug use was causing. I still believed that he was not an addict. That he would work through this experiment of his, recapture his life, and we would all live happily ever after as it was supposed to be. But this was a disaster. I had to soon realize that he was not going to recapture his life; that his teen years were not going to proceed as if his drug use never happened; That our lives are not going to be like they were supposed to be and that my son was an addict. And I would start to realize that now.

    Within a couple of days, there was a parents meeting; Just a general meeting to discuss the beginning of the hockey season and start the typical planning that parents do. I received a few personal phone calls of support to ensure that I would be there, and it is the memory of this meeting that is the poignant memory that feels like yesterday.

    Just about everyone was there, including most of the players. And there was excitement in everybody’s voices for the season that was about to start. When we parents started to discuss the business of the team, I could not shake the hope that maybe they really did not know my son was using drugs, but my inability to cope with their knowledge of the events was more the reality rather than any hope that they didn’t know.

    The typical hockey politics begin the discussion and the event at the ballpark was soon the topic. There was no doubt the extent of their knowledge of my son’s behavior and I was overwhelmed with the shame of the stigma. How could my son have behaved in this way? And yes, I was also still in the mode of addressing my son’s problem as a behavior problem, a discipline problem, and I was still in disbelief that this was happening to my son, to my family….to me. It just wasn’t supposed to be this way! This type of coarse lifestyle just does not happen in my family.

    However, at that moment it all came crashing down. There I was sitting in this kitchen with a house full of people as they openly discussed my son’s drug induced collapse at the ballpark. I was crushed with the guilt of his actions and with the ignominy that he had brought the street life of drug use into this protected world and brutally displayed it before their children.

    And at that moment I knew it was over. And I ached in a manner that I never had before. My son survived yet another close call due to his drug use that night at the ballpark, but a part of my son’s life had died that night. He used to be one of the better hockey players in the region and coaches approached him. However, his drug use was pushing his hockey ability into a past tense of used-to-be, but it was this night that sealed it as a never-again. The hockey player that lived in my son’s soul had died. And my son’s dreams died with him. And that realization began to rush over me leaving a hole in my life that will never be filled. This emptiness filled me as I began to realize that I had just lost everything that was there before me in this kitchen. These people; Their friendships; These players; Their Moms; Our team; And my son’s dreams. They were no longer a part of my life. This major piece of my existence that cultivated these dreams for my son was evaporating, and I could not stop it.

    But the next thing that rushed over me was the awareness of their unbelievable support. It took a while for it to sink in, but their support was elevating. They cared about my son, they were concerned for my son, and they were standing by him. When I look back on it today, they had a better understanding of this situation more so than I did. They believed he was a good kid that was sick. They knew it was not a discipline problem. They knew my son needed help. They knew he was an addict, that he had a disease. They knew more than I was willing to admit at the time. And they made me feel like I still belonged.

    However, I knew that it had ended. This would be the last time I would sit with these parents as a part of this team. I would no longer be a Hockey Mom and these Hockey Moms would no longer be a part of my life. And my son would never play hockey again. I would not see my son play his last game of high school hockey, because he already had. I just didn’t notice. And there would not be a senior night for my son, because he would not be there. And neither would I. The hockey player that I knew as my son was gone, and a piece of me was leaving with him. And neither would ever return.

    To this very day, years later, I still see their faces of that night like it was yesterday. I can still hear their voices; see the boys walk to and from the refrigerator, feel myself sitting in that kitchen, and seeing the interactions of the players with their parents, and wanted that so badly for me and my son. And I still can see the Mom whose kitchen it was and I can still hear her words of encouragement as I stood in the door to leave. And I still miss them all, even though the years have separated them. And still miss this hockey team, even though these players have moved onto into adulthood and this team is no longer. Surely I have not seen my son play his last game. I cannot accept that to this day, and I still wait for the next season; To get the game schedule and mark the calendar, to learn where we are going for the tournaments and schedule vacation. I still have a hard time letting this go; to accept yet another empty memory; A memory that will never be.

    End of Part 2 of 6. this will post weekly on the parent survival site- to keep up with it you can check the site:
  16. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    Ants Mom - That moved me to tears. You should be on Oprah. I can remember my difficult child and his fishing ability. All the many times of wonderful fishing events, many baseball games and lots of just family outings at the beach - fishing. He l oved fishing but drugs took that over. We havent been to the mountains in years. That part of our lives seems to be over. As I think about it I cant believe it actually happened. I understand completely what it feels like. My son never had a normal teenage year either. I didnt either for him. It is like a hole that will never be filled up but with life there is hope and I am just thankful today that he is still here! Thank you for your post.
  17. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    hi there Susan! Just a note:
    although I could be on Oprah...LOL
    this is not my writings, it is from a woman who is doing a six part series for the PSST board. the moderator there asked me to share her writing with this board as he personally knows a few of us moms of difficult children.
  18. standswithcourage

    standswithcourage New Member

    OK! Anyway - you are very experienced and it sounded like something you could write!!! Awesome. thanks.
  19. Mikey

    Mikey Psycho Gorilla Dad

    Half a box of kleenex later, I now have a clean "phrase" to describe how wife see's McWeedy, and why she acts the way she does. Maybe not so much now, but it makes tremendous sense to me.

    Painful revelation, but valuable none-the-less. Thanks for posting, looking forward to the rest of the series.

  20. Sunlight

    Sunlight Active Member

    Part 3 of the six part series:
    (again a note, this is not MY story, it is a series featured on PSST and I was asked to post it here by a moderator there)

    There are many memories that we have never shared with our teenager, high school memories, memories about their friends, and friends that never were. However, I think some memories are harder than others. My son played hockey, and for me those memories are the ones I miss the most.

    I think it will always be hard to accept these missing hockey memories. Some of the other missing memories will eventually be replaced with new ones. My son's high school commencement that never happened will hopefully be replaced with his university commencement, and I can get his 'senior' pictures then. Maybe even have that party. But there will always be a void where the hockey memories should have been. A few weeks ago my son was discussing other possibilities for universities, and one had a hockey team. And before I could catch myself I heard my words say to him…'Maybe you can play hockey again?'

    And he reiterated over and over again, 'Mom, my hockey is over. I will never play again. You must accept that……I had too!'

    Yes, he had too. He had to let go of his teen years, of his dreams that drugs had stolen from him. His drug addiction didn't allow him to be a teenager and he had to accept that he could not recapture those teen years. They were gone forever. My son will never experience being teenager and I will never share those years with him. They belong to his past now and he gave them away to drugs.

    So regardless of how hard things are for us parents to accept those years that are lost, it is harder for our children. I once asked my son about the years he spent doing drugs and if he considered writing down some of his memories so that others could understand. He said that he couldn't, because he can't remember much. And after a few days of thinking about this comment, I began to realize how sad this statement is, so very sad. His teen years, that should have been some of the best of his life, can be capsulated in the simple statement, 'I can't remember much.' At the young age of 21, his drug use represents about 40% of his life, of which he has little to no memory. His teen years that should have cultivated his future, his dreams, and his adulthood were lost, because he can't remember much. And it will be this statement that will paint his reflections of his teen years forever, 'I can't Mom, because I don't remember much.'

    As his mother, this is too much to take in; That his teen years to him are almost non-existent. In recent weeks, he and I have talked about all that we have missed and his comments indicate how he didn't know much at the time either. He didn't know that it was his birthday, that his why he wasn't home. He didn't know that it was Christmas, and that is why he still left for the day. He often didn't know what day it was, in fact, I know there were times he didn't know what month it was. That is how he will remember his teen years and it won't be much.

    What little my son will remember about his teen years will be of his drug use; For he spent his time with his drugs. He didn't spend time with the family. And he didn't spend time with me. It was drugs that he shared his life with. It wasn't me. It was drugs that influenced him. It certainly wasn't me. It was drugs that had a relationship with my teenage son … and it most certainly wasn't me! It was drugs that stole away my little boy, and they claimed his teen years. Now those years are over and we will never have them back. I will never have a relationship with my teenage son. He is gone. But what is truer is that my teenage son wasn't really ever here, he never really was, and he never will be.

    And I really do know why I picture my son as 9 years old. It was at that age where his height still placed him just below my chin. So when I hugged him, he was a good fit against my body and I would rest my chin on the top of his head while I teased him that he wasn't permitted to grown any more, so that I could hug him like this forever. And he would laugh and say he would try, just for me. I always wanted to be able to submerge him into my arms where I believed I could protect him and keep him safe. I wouldn't let anything hurt my son.

    But I did. I did not or could not protect him from drugs and they claimed my teenager. And I certainly could not save him, no matter how hard I tried to protect his life. I wanted so much to believe that I could reclaim his teen years and give them back to him on a sliver platter as if the drug use never happened. And I failed at that too. I did allow something to hurt him. To hurt him very badly, and I still want to grab my little boy, hold him close and make it all go away. To turn back time and take those demons of drug addiction from him; To give him back his teen years and those dreams that he lost. If only I could change it so he was no longer an addict, like the drugs never existed. But I can't now and I couldn't stop it then. I was never able to stop it.

    So my son is a drug addict. He will hopefully always be an addict living in drug recovery, but he will always be a drug addict. He hopefully will never again be an actively-using drug addict, but he will never be a used-to-be drug addict. He will always be a drug addict and I must accept that. He is not that 9 year-old little boy anymore. I will never be able to re-do those years and I would never have been able to stop this from happening. I cannot take this cross from him, and he must bear it for a lifetime. And I must deal with the void in my arms that my 9-year-old son has left, and accept the reality that this is all that remains of my teenage son.

    End of Part 3. Come back next week for Part 4.

    A brief preview of next week:
    'My so-called guidance that I inflicted upon my son was really enabling his addiction, because I was there to save him from the harsh reality of recovery. I didn't understand that the road into and through recovery is brutal. … and most of all; I didn't want to believe that it had to be me that brought this bottom (of the road) to him. '