The Drug Class Blog

Dec 18

Eyes Wide Open

Eyes Wide Open

It is very easy to think that whatever is going on with your teen is just “teen” stuff. If we are not careful we will often pass off changes as being just “growing up” or “experimenting” or “teen angst”.

We can also really get caught by thinking it is “just” alcohol or marijuana.

Please read the following article from the Detroit Free Press

Family’s Painful Journey

At 16 years old, Sarah Barden was using OxyContin, cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin, marijuana and still going to Walled Lake Central High School. She lied, stole, cheated and tried to manipulate everybody, but mostly her parents. "My daughter convinced me that she didn't have a problem," said Jeannie Barden, Sarah's mother. "By the time I thought something was going on, I was already late.

When I thought she was drinking and smoking pot, she was already doing cocaine and popping pills." Dealing with her daughter's addiction was like "going through hell," Barden said. But with help, Sarah is now in recovery. She was treated at Henry Ford Maplegrove Center in West Bloomfield and has been clean for three years.

Barden, 55, of West Bloomfield is now trying to help others avoid the same mistakes that she made in missing the signs of addiction in her daughter. She volunteers at Maplegrove, sharing her story and offering tips to parents with children who have substance-abuse problems -- at a time when the number of young people using drugs is on the rise, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year and daily marijuana use is now at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors, according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future report released Wednesday. In 2011, 50% of high school seniors reported having tried an illicit drug at some time, the report stated, and 40% used one or more drugs in the past 12 months. Few are getting treatment. More than 23 million Americans ages 12 and older needed some sort of treatment for drug or alcohol use problems, according to the national survey. But only 2.6 million people received treatment.

Most didn't get help because they didn't think they needed it. Barden offers tips for parents, saying these are the things she wished she had known when her daughter was younger: Get your child tested as soon as you suspect a problem. Sarah started drinking and smoking marijuana in middle school. She moved on to prescription pills, which is typical. According to the study, marijuana is the most prevalent illicit drug used by young people, followed by nonmedical use of prescription drugs. "The minute you have a suspicion, go immediately and seek help and get a drug testing kit," Barden said.

The kids who do drugs might surprise you. Sarah used to buy drugs at an abandoned house in Detroit. "One thing that was strange was going there and seeing half of your high school class in a dope house," Sarah said. "That was weird. People you would never imagine seeing in a crack house. You go downtown and it's like a party from high school. None of us were friends. We just knew of each other from high school. There were popular kids. The jock kids. From any social clique there was. It was the kids you would never expect to see there."

Get counseling to learn how to deal with an addicted child. "By the time the problem gets drastic, you are insane yourself," Barden said. "They need help, but you also need help. We can't fix it until we get help. The thing I realized was, the more I got help, the more I could help her." In metro Detroit, there are free, weekly Families Anonymous meetings held at several locations to help parents in situations such as this and Alanon can help as well.

You are not alone. "I think some parents are afraid or ashamed of going to these meetings because they think nobody is like them," Barden said. "Most of the time, you don't tell anybody. You are ashamed. You are embarrassed."

Pick the right moment for conversations. "Never talk to them or accuse them when they are stoned," Barden said. "They only get crazy.

I remember one night, I picked her up and she was blatantly stoned. We drove straight to Meijer and picked up a drug test. Of course, she went crazy when we went home. The next time it happened, I waited until the next morning. Little by little, you learn different things." For the longest time, no matter what Barden did, Sarah's addiction kept getting worse. Barden took her daughter to therapy three times, but each time it failed. "I drove her to meetings," Barden said. "She saw two therapists at one point. I drove her to her urine tests. It was my whole life, trying to make sure she was doing all the things she needed to do." Sarah is 5-foot-5 and normally weighs 125 to 130 pounds. But she dropped to 90 pounds while using drugs.

She supported her habit by stealing and using other people's drugs. "I would steal from anyone and everyone else," Sarah said, "but I never stole from my parents."

Set rules and consequences. Sarah said her parents had rules but she didn't face serious consequences, at least at first. "I made it through school only with the help of my mom doing my schoolwork for me," she said. "She was good at keeping my life together for me, until she realized that was keeping me sick." Sarah actually liked some of her mother's punishments. "When I would fail a drug test, I'd be grounded for two weeks and during those two weeks, my mom and I would go shopping," Sarah said. "We'd go out to eat. It was like a good break from my crazy lifestyle. I got to chill out, hang out with my mom and go shopping. What's bad about that?"

Robin Walsh, a therapist at Maplegrove, said this is a common problem. Many parents do not set limits or boundaries. "In order for the client to get better, the whole family needs to get better," Walsh said. "Parents have denial and want to believe their child." One thing that Barden learned at Maplegrove was to put rules in writing. "If you have a child and you know they have a problem, you have to have what we call a family contract," Walsh said. "There are specific rules and guidelines to follow in the house. If you have it in writing, it holds the parent accountable as well as the child." If a child breaks the contract, it is important for a parent to take away privileges. "There are some basic things that we are expected to provide for our child: shelter, clothes and get them to school," Walsh said. "Anything else is a privilege -- a car, cell phone. Take it away. Hit them where it hurts." As hard as it is, you have to stick to the consequences.

Emboldened with courage and advice she learned at parent meetings, Barden kicked her daughter out of the house after she broke some of the house rules. Barden held firm and wouldn't let her return. This was a monumental change for Barden, who had always let Sarah come back. "The last time that I left, I knew she meant it," Sarah said. "I knew I couldn't just come back. I went out expecting to die or hoping to die." Sarah hit rock bottom. "It was the first time that I felt nothing and didn't care," Sarah said. "I knew my mom meant business. It sucked. She actually did what the people in those programs told her to do. And I hated that. My mother had started to change. She stopped falling for my crap. "She finally kept her word." Sarah said she called her mother "nonstop" for three days. "And she wouldn't pick up the phone. She wouldn't show sympathy. Before, I could play her however I wanted. I could come back whenever I wanted. But she wanted nothing to do with me anymore. It didn't take long for me to do something about it. I didn't have the comfy cushion to fall back on anymore."

Sarah entered treatment, this time wanting help and turned her life around. It's never over. Now 21 and clean for three years, Sarah continues to attend support groups, preferring Alcoholics Anonymous. Jeannie attends Families Anonymous and she keeps a close eye on her daughter. "If her attitude changes, I'll ask her if she's been to a meeting," Barden said. "It tells her, 'Oh, you are not sounding right to me.' "

Sarah wants to go to college and start a career. "I want to do something with a nonprofit, helping other people who are in situations that I faced," she said. "I've completely changed. I was a liar, a thief. I was mean back then to everyone. Now, if I tell a lie, I have to admit it right away because I feel guilty. I have a conscience. Back then, I didn't realize how much I was hurting other people." And now, Sarah is urging parents to help their children. "The best advice I could give parents is let your kids face consequences," she said. "Don't try to cover it up. You don't have to be embarrassed about what your kid is going through."

r [email protected]

What do you think?

Show All Blog Posts