Intro: The Every Brain Matters community understands how difficult and painful it is to 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 differently, 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 and opinions are from clinical staff, teens in recovery, and parents and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Every Brain Matters community. We encourage each person to take what they like and make their own decisions that benefit their families.
The Every Brain Matters community also does not recommend specific treatment programs, but we are grateful to share the content.
Click this link to see this question answered during an ask it basket panel meeting.
How do I know I’m on the right track?
Perspective from Clinical Staff: Your actions will tell you if you are on the right track, not your feelings.
Define working a program as allowing your commitments and principles to guide your behavior, not your feelings. If I am making it to my meetings, sharing in them, sharing love, and working my steps…I know I’m on the right track.
Perspective from a Parent: If I am consistently checking in with my sponsor, my winners (healthy peers working a recovery program), and my Higher Power, I can count on being held accountable if I am NOT on the right track! With love, of course.
Perspective from a Parent: If I spend the majority of my time looking at myself and what is working for me in my daily life rather than wondering or fretting about what my kid, spouse, or coworker is doing, saying, or thinking I am on the right track. If I choose to take care of myself, that will include being honest with myself, working a real program for myself, and not fixing my kid. Attending parent meetings, having and working with a sponsor, learning to laugh again, and genuinely enjoying time with myself.
Perspective from a Teen: I think one thing also is when you are truly working the 12 steps, going to meetings, sharing, reaching out for help, and giving and receiving love for YOURSELF, and not for your family or child. That was a huge thing for my dad, and also he realized he could only change himself, and his actions, and that he is not a victim.
We hope you find healing and encouragement in this Parent Story
The Phone call that started the change
I will always remember my first meeting. It was a Thursday night meeting. I had been invited by my daughter’s friend’s mom. We sat in a large room in a large circle. To get through the doors to the room. I sat in a meeting where families talked about their feelings, talked about things that had happened in their home, and laughed about their stories, some of which I was surprised they even spoke about it, let alone laugh at the situation. Some of their stories made me cry. I was so used to stuffing my feelings, feeling numb, and getting through the day on autopilot. I didn’t want to start crying for fear I wouldn’t ever stop. After the meeting, my daughter was invited to fellowship or what they called meeting for coffee with the kids. She was excited to go, and several girls came up to me and said they had several drivers and would bring her home. I agreed to let her go. I went home, realizing I didn’t have any phone numbers, and started to worry when my daughter wasn’t home shortly after. Should I go back out and make sure they were really at the coffee spot? I sat alone, making up scenarios in my head of what they were really doing. She finally came home super excited about this new group, and I had my doubts……
I was adopted at birth by my parents who were school teachers. They were both active in church; my Mom was a church organist, and my Dad served as church Elder along with other various roles. From the outside looking in, we were a “normal” family. Inside, we were not. My Dad was often angry and took out his anger on my Mom physically and emotionally. We often moved in pursuit of his happiness. I learned early on by doing what was asked of me, not causing friction, and being quiet and helpful. I would not be a victim of my Dad’s rage. I was shy, and I hated all the moving and having to form new friendships. My parents divorced when I was twelve, and both remarried within 2 years. I hoped my home life would be happier, and safer, but that was not the case. It became even more dysfunctional. I couldn’t wait to be out on my own, away from the craziness, and have control of my life.
When I was 25, I married my soul mate. We moved to Houston for my job, and I was ready to start a new life. We bought our first home, and I felt safer not having to live in all the turmoil I had grown up in. After many years of trying to have our own children, we chose to adopt and brought home 2-year-old twin girls from Russia. I was determined to raise my children in a loving, safe home. We were active in school, church, and after-school activities. I thought I was doing all the right things to raise happy, healthy children. I quickly found out that was not the case.
Things started to change when my daughter was around ten. She began to rebel and would not do what was asked of her. I was growing frustrated by her. The more I asked of her, the angrier she became. What had happened to my little girl that loved hugs and had a smile that would melt your heart? She was vocalizing her hatred of me, my looks, my cooking, whatever she could lash out at me about. Our arguments were intensifying and starting to become physical. The more I tried to control her, the worse it became. I knew I needed help, and we both started seeing a therapist. I sat through these sessions listening to my daughter tell the therapist what a terrible mom I was, and I was slowly believing this to be true. We continued down the path of seeing a psychologist, and a psychiatrist, being diagnosed high anxiety, ADHD, depression, bipolar, a suicide attempt, and time spent in a treatment facility. Through all of this, my daughter would not stay on her medication. When she was in tenth grade, I felt like a prisoner in my own home. She would come home from school and be violent and belligerent. I was thankful when she left for “walks” or went to bed and slept. I tried guarding the house from her anger, locked up as much as I could from her stealing, and tried to protect her twin sister from her bullying. Nothing was working. I isolated myself for fear that it would be discovered I couldn’t parent and felt what my child was doing was a reflection on me. I couldn’t face the shame. The life I had hoped for as a child was nowhere to be seen, and I had no idea how to feel happy again. I felt this would be my way of life until she reached 18 and made good on her promise to leave home and never contact us again.
Then came the night I received a phone call from my friend. She told me she was bringing her daughter to Cornerstone. She had wanted to go with her friend to support her, but explained she had read her daughter’s text messages and I should also go to the meeting. I went to that Thursday night meeting and wasn’t confident this was what my daughter needed, but I went back again the following week with my husband. My daughter loved the social life in Cornerstone. Satellite, girls’ night, meetings, coffee, Saturday functions. I was told she was with a pretty good group of kids. I was still trying to figure out who they were. They were a loud, rowdy, smoking, cursing, happy group of kids. They gave me hugs and said, “love you.” They wanted to talk to get to know me. I had never seen any kids act like this before. Still, through those first few weeks, I wasn’t sure this was the right place for us. We met with our counselor. We both shared that our daughter’s issues were not an addiction problem but were on the mental health spectrum. Our daughter needed to be on medication, but she was only willing to self-medicate. The counselor explained that what we saw was only the tip of the iceberg. We walked out of that meeting feeling confident we had found the right place after all. We called Sundown Ranch, secured a bed for her the following Monday, and made plans to do what I didn’t think I could ever do again, send her to another treatment facility. That early Monday morning, three girls came to our house while my daughter was still asleep. They woke her up and drove to treatment without a hassle. I was amazed by these teenage girls. They were giving up their day to help another in need. Sitting through a long car ride with someone they did not know. That day is when I truly felt the love of this group. I went to Climbers that night and cried. I was told to work on myself while she was gone, pick up a sponsor, read books, attend all the meetings, and have shots and consequences on the refrigerator before she came home. I was overwhelmed. Couldn’t I just relax and enjoy the peace and quiet?!! I went to Climbers and meetings. I sat and listened to stories, cried, and started to feel again. I read “Recovering our Children”, and talked to parents that had been through this. I got up the nerve to ask someone to be my sponsor and started to work on myself. Through Climbers, I learned I could love my child without accepting her poor behavior. Through my sponsor, I learned about the 12 steps and self-care. The group gave me strength. Listening to their stories, what they had been through, and where they were now, gave me hope. They could smile, joke, and laugh; I wanted that too. Their experience, strength, and hope gave me life again.
My daughter came home from Sundown, and we met with the group counselor that afternoon. I was nervous about pulling her out of school but knew I didn’t want her to return to High School. We enrolled her in group therapy, and she had weekly individual sessions. We had our shots and consequences on our refrigerator, and I hoped I was ready. After the first week of being home, I had to call a shot. I would no longer tolerate her disrespect to me, her sister, our home. Old behaviors were arising, and I did not want to co-sign on her behavior. My daughter went to live at a host home, where the most growth and healing happened to our family. She lived in a home that was full of love and still held firm boundaries. She learned to work on herself and her program, stayed on her medication, and worked on healthier relationships. I watched how the families interacted with each other. We attended meetings, had parent/teen coffee, and learned how to parent an addict. She came back to a healthier home. We hosted functions, had girls’ nights, and drove kids to and from activities. I was getting my parenting self-esteem back!
The first time we were asked to host someone, I wasn’t sure I could do it. My daughter was excited to have another girl come live with us. I had been told my daughter would be doing the work, and we were there to give them a safe environment (and lots of food) to live in. It was a wonderful growth experience for all of us. I learned how to have a loving home with strong boundaries. I now understood how to detach with love. I had heard that phrase at the very beginning and couldn’t conceive how to put the two together. It had been all or nothing with me, detach with anger or smother with love. Now I knew how to remove myself when things were getting heated, say, “I love you, but I won’t accept this behavior.” I have a list of friends I can now call when I start doubting myself or am unclear about a situation.
Through my Cornerstone journey, I have found serenity. We have joy and laughter once again in our home. Every day is not perfect, but we have the tools to keep us going forward. I have learned to set boundaries to keep my serenity. I can say no out of love instead of anger. I have regained my connection with my Higher Power and realize how important it is for me to have my nightly quiet time for reflection and prayer. I will always be grateful to Cornerstone, my sponsors, and all who have gone before me. They held my hand through the tough parts and celebrated the successes through this crazy journey. I no longer feel alone and ashamed.
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.
Higher Power: God or divine being, being in something that is more powerful than self
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 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.
Winners: Your peers or another person who are working an honest vulnerable recovery program