The Every Brain Matters community understands how difficult and painful it is when you have a child or loved one with destructive behaviors such as using marijuana or any drug. We also know that each family navigates recovery and healing in different ways, applying valuable tools from many types of effective support systems. The information given here is taken from one of these reliable systems.
We are grateful that the Cornerstone Team Counseling community addresses these tough recovery questions and is allowing us to share their insight with you. Since it is beneficial to hear different perspectives, the following answers are from clinical staff, teens in recovery, and parents.
To learn more, please visit The Every Brain Matters Support Section or click under the meeting tab to find more information on our support meetings for parents and families.
What is Parent-Driven Recovery? (PDR)
Perspective from Clinical Staff: Families that come to Cornerstone are usually scared, broken, and have lost confidence in their ability to parent. They are desperate for answers, wisdom, experience, and strength. They will find hope in the meetings and in individuals within the program.
Good counselors and sponsors will recognize that it is appropriate for these families to “lean” on the program for strength, answers, and guidance early on, but after a period of time (usually within 12 months) if this does not change it will create DEPENDENCE on the program or the counselor.
Counselors, staff, and sponsors should serve as mentors, guides, and example setters, not people who have all the answers to all things recovery.
PDR creates an opportunity for the parents to gain self-esteem and confidence. These are invaluable assets they will need to cope with addiction after their days at Cornerstone have passed, as addiction does not end with an Awakening.
Perspective from a Parent: Work your own program!!!! Utilize your sponsor, educate yourself through reading ALL suggested materials, attend as many meetings as possible including Climbers, be 100% on board with enforcing the plan of action outlined in family appointments and reach out to your area counselor for input when you feel lost or in doubt. They do know more than we do.
Also, learn what it means to detach with love from your teen. Enabling only prolongs the hardship for them, and you will keep your family from the healing and growth recovery can give you all.
Learn as much as you can about addiction, parent-driven recovery, and the tools of the program!
Perspective from a Teen: The common thing I hear from parents when first coming into the program is how angry they are; they’re angry about being there and how angry they are at their kids.
After attending meetings and listening to the strength and hope from the other parents and also hearing the stories from the kids that are winners in the program and seeing how it worked for them, they start to lose some of that anger and realize how they contributed to their kid’s addiction.
When you work the steps with a sponsor, you start to realize where you were codependent and enabling and how you can “deal” with your kids differently. This is important for the parents who have more than one addict in the family, which was true in my case.
My mom had to not only learn to overcome her codependency with me, but with two other kids. Even after she Awakened, she has seen the difference in herself when she is or isn’t working the steps.
Perspective from Clinical Staff: Parent-Driven Recovery is where the parents build their own foundation in working the12 steps to be able to hold their teens accountable out of love rather than anger, frustration or fear.
Through working the steps, developing a relationship with a sponsor and getting involved in the parent group, the parents learn where their own codependency has dictated their decisions, reactions and consequences with their teen. PDR is where the parents can stand strong in their shots and convey the message to their teen that they will no longer accept their self-destructive behavior.
When the parents learn to practically apply the tools of the program into their home to help raise their teen’s bottom or to sustain long-term sobriety, they are driving the recovery in the home.
Please take time to read the Parent Story attached.
This is a Family Disease
I moved out of our home and divorced my husband five years ago. My two youngest, both boys, were thirteen and fourteen at the time, and they wanted to stay with their father. I was very upset about that, but I didn’t feel I could argue with them. I lived alone in a small apartment for the next two years. During that time, my son, the next to youngest, spiraled downward even more in his use of drugs and alcohol. His behavior was aberrant at best, and he and I didn’t seem able to be in the same room or car for more than five minutes before he would blow up at me. I would tolerate as much as I could, and then get very angry in return. We put him in a special school, then back to public school. We had tried many settings, years of counseling, and struggled with his violence, property damage, verbal abuse, and disregard for authority for a long time.
But the last time we took him back to public school, he settled down after the first semester. His grades improved (he was making ‘A’s!) and his attendance was good. He was going to his therapist. One day he asked that my ex-husband and I attend his therapy session. He told us then that he was using drugs in school and begged us to take him out. I refused, and his father agreed with me. Sure, I thought, he smokes some pot. Everyone experiments. I said, “You’re on the right track. You’ll work this out.” This is still a painful, embarrassing memory.
Then he came home very drunk several times and once disrupted his father’s Passover seder because he was so drunk. I looked up AA on the internet and called the number for the nearest meeting I could find. The man who answered told me about Cornerstone. I don’t know his name.
What I didn’t know for a long time was that a friend of my son’s in school had suggested Cornerstone to him many times because her best friend’s brother was in it. That was why, when I asked him to go with me, he was willing.
The following week, we met with Kirk Campbell. Kirk said, “He’s in real deep. This is a life or death situation.” He told us that it was rare for a kid to really succeed in Cornerstone whose parents don’t get involved. That was one of the only times that my son’s father ever came to anything to do with Cornerstone.
So I started coming to meetings. I did it because I wanted to show that I was a good parent. I felt that there was nothing wrong with me. In fact, I had worked endlessly, tirelessly for years to help my son, I’d gone beyond the call, I was a good parent, so why did I need help? I sat at the back of meetings, stiff and isolated and superior, but the truth was, I was depressed and alone and terribly frightened. I hated when everyone said, “Love you.” I hated when people cried because it made me have strong feelings. I drew back because I didn’t want to look at my own feelings.
I even got a sponsor, because I was going to work this program perfectly to prove I was without flaw.
Then my son stole my car to buy drugs in the middle of the night, wrecked it, and I was called by a police officer at 3:00 am. I was still protecting him and wouldn’t press charges, but I had the car hauled, with him in it, back to my place. “You’ll live with me, now,” I told him, and I was sure that if I just put up the rules I’d learned about in Cornerstone, everything would work out. Within twenty-four hours, I found him high in my home. I called my sponsor. My son was threatening me and refusing to go into a hospital, even though that was the consequence I’d spelled out in the rules. She made some calls, and in fifteen minutes there were five older Cornerstone kids at my door. Two were about eighteen and looked like young men, and my fifteen-year-old son, even through his haze, was awed. He stepped outside, into the group that surrounded him and said, “Why are you here?” And they said, “Because we love you.”
They stayed with us until late that night, when we finally got him checked into a local hospital. Three days later, two of them came back and rode with us when I transferred him to Sundown. I could never have done it alone. Somehow, the presence of those kids made it all right for my son. One of them joked about the five different hospitals he’d been in. Another one told him he better smoke all he can now, because he’s not going to get any cigarettes when we get there!
The next time I went to a Cornerstone meeting, I listened to the twelve steps as if for the first time. A chill went through me, and I realized that I could learn a lot. We’d been in Cornerstone for four months at that time, but I count my “birthday” from that date. I called my sponsor and began to work with her. After that, it seemed like every Cornerstone meeting made me cry.
During the months my son was hospitalized, I went to meetings five and six times a week – Cornerstone meetings, AA, and Al-Anon. It was the AA meetings that finally humbled me because I heard hard-core alcoholics express struggles, attitudes, failures, and needs that sounded like me and my life. I no longer saw my son as the “problem” and myself as the model parent. This is a family disease. We both have it.
I began to really work on my step work, but it was hard. I was proud of the first worksheet I took to my sponsor. I felt I had all the right answers. She listened to me read them out, and said, “I… think ya need to re-work this.” She wanted simplicity and honesty. It was time to stop posturing and trying to impress people because I had finally come across someone who could see through me and cared enough to say so.
But it was so hard. Since I had long had chaos in my life, it was important for me to feel in control. When I learned about powerlessness, my sponsor spent a long time on it with me and really dug, challenged me, made me look. I had to admit that, really, I’d never been in control, and that was a good thing, because I had made so many mistakes. My son and I were together, alive, and working a program now because of God, not me. Still, I felt raw, and so sad for days. When I called her to complain, she said, “This is good!”
I avoided Cornerstone Step Five for about a year. It involves an “inventory,” of my life, and I had to answer questions about things stemming back into my childhood. My father was mentally ill and he abused my older sister. My other younger sister is an addict. My mother is deeply narcissistic. I had cut that part of my life off a long time ago, proud that I was “OK,” and had tried to ignore the feelings I always carried that I was different; I had secrets, fears, and a sense of being out of control. I had had varying degrees of depression and anxiety for years. Past therapy had helped, in fact, therapy probably prepared me for Cornerstone, but going through the inventory unburdened me of my past and my secrets far more; I was free! I became a calmer person. I stopped crying at meetings and started laughing. Then I found I didn’t need anti-depressant medicine any more. One day I told my son that, whether or not he stayed sober or continued working a program, I was in for life. I am doing this for me.
We’ve been living together now for two years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we’ve both learned to be emotionally honest, to keep it simple, and to make amends whenever necessary, and these three principals help us on a daily basis. I’ve had my second birthday in Al-Anon, and my son is two years sober. Although he is eighteen and very much an independent adult, I still have my Shots and Boundaries and I still hold him accountable, because that is what I need to maintain the peace in my home.
But the other day he said, “Mom, I don’t think you care as much as I do about my program.”
“You’re probably right,” I said. I’m not afraid to be honest with him any more.
“I just want you to understand that I still work a program because it’s important to me, not because of your rules.”
I loved him so much at that moment. Still, I know that if he ever changes his mind about that and leaves AA or starts to use again, I’ll feel confident that I’ve given him the tools to deal with his addiction when he chooses to do so. And I’ll have my own involvement in the program to turn to. I can’t ask for any more than that.
Glossary of terms:
Addict: An old term used to describe a person with a substance use disorder that is not currently socially accepted anymore.
Al-Anon: A twelve-step organization that provides support and hope for families affected by another person’s marijuana use.
Awakening: A term used after Completion of the 12 steps and the requirements of the Cornerstone community. Like a graduation but it’s viewed as a “spiritual awakening”
Climbers: an interactive educational group for family members to bring issues, questions or concerns, and receive direct feedback from a counselor and other family members. As well as learn tools of recovery to help you and your family. The Every Brain Matters community offers a Climbers meeting every Wednesday.
Destructive Behaviors: Self-destructive behavior is when you do something that’s sure to cause self-harm, whether it’s emotional or physical. Some self-destructive behavior is more obvious, such as: attempting suicide. binge eating. compulsive activities like gambling, using harmful drugs, gaming, or shopping.
IOP (Intensive Outpatient Therapy): treatment programs used to address addictions, depression, eating disorders, or other dependencies that do not require detoxification or round-the-clock supervision.
Mar-Anon Family Groups: A twelve-step organization that provides support and hope for families affected by another person’s marijuana use.
Parent-Driven Recovery: Tools that Work is a must-read for parents of substance-abusing teens. You’ll learn how to maneuver through the chaos to create a harmonious family life. Even if your teen is not ready or willing to change, there is help and hope.
Recovery: A return to a normal state of health, mind, or strength. A healing process.
Shots: A term used in the recovery community is called Couerstone Team Counseling. It’s a customized list of rules and consequences each family makes for their homes. To learn more, attend the Every Brain Matters Climbers meeting on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm Central time. A list of our meetings is at this link.
SO: Stands for Significant Others, a term sometimes used when graduating from an IOP (Intensive Outpatient Program) after making amends to our “significant others”, or people we have harmed.