It’s Not an Issue Until It’s Your Child

It’s Not an Issue Until It’s Your Child

My Secret Life

A True Story to Engage and Supervise Your Child or Student
Written By: Adam Simon – EB Intervention Team

Addiction was not a very important conversation in my family until it was about me. No one would have ever believed that I would end up looking at a seven year prison sentence at 22 years old from where I came from.  I had a wonderful life.

I often hear that addicts have something really wrong in their lives or something missing that causes a life of ruin to take place.  We hear many uninformed well meaning people share that the breakdown of the family unit, godlessness, or childhood trauma is to blame for the plight of the addict.  They could not have helped it, we often hear.  I share my story to poke holes in those narratives of addiction.  I have not seen an entity in our society that is more egalitarian than addiction.  It is no respecter of race, color, language, gender or socio economic background.  It will consume and destroy the lives of those it afflicts.  It is a rapacious creditor to all those who are involved with the one afflicted. 

My parents are some of the most incredible Christians I have ever met. They have been engaged in a loving marriage for over 42 years.   Many of our family friends have a sort of jesting jealousy towards the love affair and relationship they have.  They raised  us in a faithful home where love and forgiveness were the keystones of my childhood.  Our parents read us the bible and prayed with us daily.  We were a family that ate meals together at a round wooden table with our assigned seats every dinner throughout my childhood.  My sister and I were loved fully and often overfed, as I like to say.  We won the ovarian lottery.  My family was often referred to as The Cleavers.  We were raised in a small one red light town in Tennessee, where my family was well known and of the top 2% of wealth in our area.  We seemingly had a life that would create a safeguard from the darkness of the world. Not you, right? 

I was 12 years old the first time I grabbed my first bottle of alcohol and started my journey towards drug addiction and alcoholism.  Within six months of my first drink I had gotten drunk alone and begun to smoke weed, inhale synthetic and designer drugs, and found pharmaceutical means of self medicating.  At 16 it was cocaine and by 18 I had found methamphetamine.  I was arrested the first time in a 3rd world country when I was 17  and had participated in a myriad of local, state, federal and international felonious acts as a result of my drug addiction.  During this period, I still excelled in academics, athletics and frequented church and church events.  I was able to recover quickly and utilize very small amounts of time and money to engage and to grow my addiction.  I learned quickly how to navigate my life with my addiction.  I always had a preparation pack in my car that included a change of clothes scented hand lotion and eye drops to cover my tracks.  I always showed up to church events and birthday parties and family events late and left early to create my alibi with my timeline for each day. I always asked for more money each week for lunch and gas and used 20% of it so I could have the majority to buy what I needed. I began to steal food and cheat people in deals at a very young age so that I could stretch allowance each week further. I was constantly in a state of preparation and calculation to contribute to my habit.  It quickly turned to education and manipulation of street life and building deliberate and organized networks to create opportunities to increase my activity and engagement with my addiction.  A typical Tuesday would include me leaving a white upper middle class home and neighborhood and going to a private college preparatory school and going to soccer practice and getting something to eat with friends and coming back home, is what was seen.  The reality of that Tuesday was quite different.  It really went like this.  On the way to school I would take a low milligram of benzodiazepine (xanax), I would get to school and then have an open period and open campus lunch. I would ask mom for 40 dollars for lunch and gas.  I would go get something to go from the lunch cafeteria and charge it to my account. I would go out for lunch, split a 6 pack of beer or go and smoke a joint. 

I would come back from lunch. I would then not have soccer practice start until 3:30, and school would end at 2:45.  I would leave school and drive to one of my friends’ house before parents got home from work and smoke another joint.  I would then return to school and go to soccer practice.  I would then end practice at 5:00, and tell my parents it ended at 5:30.  

I would then take that time to go and do some work for the streets.  I would call a couple guys and see what they wanted from the upper class society. I would then take an order, call my contacts and make transfers.  I would get the drugs at one price and sell at a high price and would earn bonuses for the product as I did more work.  I was a mule at first but grew in the enterprise and that was when I was 16 to 18 years old.   

Addiction is often not a relevant issue in many communities until it’s your child or someone you love.  It often only takes a certain family to highlight the nature of addiction. It’s important to understand that in many communities kids like me will start their journey this year.  However, there is hope in this process.  We can and we do recover from a seemingly hopeless state of mind and body. Our engagement and supervision in our kids lives are of the utmost value.  

3 Simple Steps to Engage and Supervise Your Child or Student

  1. There are many different applications and services available.  A few top rated apps are called Bark, Qustudio, and WebWatcher.  Your kids will revolt at the mention of this application, however it is vital for you to understand about their life online.  It will give you a more accurate picture of where they are. 
  2. Take a look at all of their friends and the places they frequent.  A real strict assessment of the places and people in your kids life is paramount.  You need to know the influences in their lives.  It’s very important to not dismiss family.  Family often lends itself to the most access available for your kids. 
  3. Schedule regular time to be with each of your kids.  This time should not be family time.  Spend time individually with each one of your kids on a regular basis.  Time with each child creates a different level of closeness as they grow up.  So often I counsel kids to reach out and sit down with their parents and share openly and honestly, and they don’t know how to do that.  It must become a necessity in your lives.  I would strongly encourage you to do this without any technology.  It will force that time to be more meaningful.  Sit down, ask your child how they are doing and then just listen.  We so often as parents assume the authoritarian and teaching role, we forget to hear them. 

To read and learn more from the EB Intervention Team, click here.

Do you or someone else you love suffer from drug or alcohol addiction?  Do you need support?  

Please Contact Us: 
Info@EBInterventrion.org
https://ebintervention.org/
(615) 482-1831

 

Are We Listening?

Are We Listening?

Are We Listening?

Understanding and Supporting Children’s Complex Thinking Skills
Written By: Adrianne Blackwelder

What she said was..“I can’t do it”..”I don’t know how”..”This is too hard”.. She lacked the ability to explain her frustration, and I wasn’t really hearing her. We sat in my home office together, for what seemed like hours. We both became frustrated, often to the point of tears. I felt that she was being defiant .. she thought I was being unreasonable. 

Only one of us was correct.

I have spent the last year and a half researching and learning the ins and outs of executive function and its many connections to students’ success in school. As a PhD student, this is the area I have carved out for myself and I am entranced by the complexities of these relationships. But, I won’t bore you with that here. 

This blog will provide you with an overview of executive function and will explain how these skills (and skill deficits) often manifest at home and in academics. I am not a cognitive scientist nor am I a psychologist. I am an educator and a parent. My goal is to share a bit of what I have learned and how we have overcome executive function challenges to develop stronger habits of mind and more effective practices. 

First, let me give you a working definition. Executive function is most often described as a set of cognitive processes that help an individual organize, plan, attend, and persist. Often described as the brain’s “air traffic control center”, these skills are essential for setting and achieving goals. For a child, that may mean engaging in appropriate social interactions, cleaning their room, or completing a complex mathematics problem. 

Three subskills involved with executive function are:

Working memory. The ability to keep information in mind and use it successfully. 

Flexible thinking. The ability to think about something in multiple ways. 

Inhibitory control. The ability to control attention and impulse responses.

For the purpose of this discussion, this is as far as I will go. While I could write about these skills at great length, my goal is to provide practical insight and application. Check out the resources at the bottom of this post if, like me, research is your jam! 

Children use these skills from the time they wake up until they go to sleep. 

Consider how these processes impact the following tasks and activities. 

@ home @ school
  • Getting dressed for school
  • Interacting with siblings
  • Saving & spending allowance
  • Completing homework
  • Listening during instruction
  • Completing a complex math problem
  • Ignoring distractions
  • Contributing to group projects

Returning to the opening vignette, I wonder if you can guess who was correct ..

She was. My six-year-old daughter struggles with the skills I have invested so much time studying, and I missed it for sooo long. As parents and educators, when we recognize these challenges, we can provide appropriate and scaffolded support. 

Below I share some of the things we have had success with. Some seem like common sense, but intention and planning have made all the difference. None of these strategies or tools is a magic bullet, however, with a little planning, reflection, and discussion, these supports have drastically improved our effectiveness. 

  1. Break It Down

Break a task down into small, manageable steps or phases. If cleaning a bedroom causes frustration and requires an unreasonable amount of time, give your child tasks to complete. For example, “Clean up these blocks, then put up those books. When you are finished with those two tasks, come see me.” You can increase the complexity and number of steps as proficiency and confidence increase. 

  1. Think-Aloud

Modeling the way you think about a task or procedure can support a child to use similar metacognitive strategies. If a child is stumped by a mathematics word problem, model the way you identify necessary information. For example, “When I read that problem again, I realized that we are trying to find the total amount of money. Now I need to see what additional information I am given.” Again, modeling should be scaffolded as necessary and can gradually fade over time. 

  1. Set Goals

Since executive function skills are involved with goal attainment, offer support by collaboratively goal-setting then planning for success. If a child struggles to react appropriately in disappointing social situations, identify the unwanted or unacceptable behavior and discuss a more appropriate alternative. Try counting to 5 before responding. Act out and practice this skill together. As you supervise and support the child, the strategy may need to be modified. Set short-term goals and celebrate successes. 

  1. Encourage Creativity

Allow your child to think creatively in less structured and low-stakes environments. Summer is the perfect time to ditch the devices, get outside, and find things to do. As the parent or guardian, avoid the temptation to orchestrate what your child does in their play time. You can support initiation by providing open-ended ideas. For example, “It is a beautiful day. You could go on a scavenger hunt, pretend you are doing a special job, or create a new tool”

  1. Use Graphic Organizers

These tools offer external support for internal cognitive processes and support planning and organization. If a child struggles to manage time effectively, provide a visual schedule and give prompts as necessary. (Here is the one we developed. Slide it in a page protector and use it as a checklist. Feel free to download and modify.)  For goal setting, a graphic organizer may support a child’s ability to backwards plan and monitor progress. In writing, these tools help a child think of the big picture and break the task into manageable sections

  1. Be Intentional 

This is the most important strategy! Make your concerns transparent in a calm and reassuring way. Allow the child to see you as a partner and collaborator. Discuss the importance of the skills you are working on and make personal connections. For example, “I know that it really helps me to focus when I can keep my hands busy.” (We love these for busy hands!) .. “When I can’t focus, it helps me to listen to soft music to drown out background distractions.” 

Monitor progress and celebrate successes.

 

If My Dad Had Known

If My Dad Had Known

By: TJ Pass – EB Intervention Team

Simple Steps for Parents and Educators that Can Save Lives 

If my dad had known, what might have been different?  To begin, let me share that my father loved me and was there for me until the day he died.  After my mother passed away when I was just 7 years old, my dad made me his top priority.  He went without so I could have.  He never tried drugs and I saw him drunk twice, although there was usually beer in the fridge.  My first arrest came at the age of 15 and my dad cried, he pointed out how I didn’t belong in that group, I wasn’t like the other kids in juvenile court.  Dad was the opposite of a helicopter parent and I believe he always thought I would just make good choices.  My dad passed away in the year 2000 when I was only 23. My brother and my uncle stepped in and assumed the role of caregiver and protector, in an effort to save me. After many months, they finally realized they could not save me from my addictions; they didn’t have the tools or know where to begin.  

A system must be in place to support addiction.  My system stopped working, when no one would cosign my behavior or my lack of responsibility, and that is when I accepted professional help.  I have been free of narcotics and alcohol since January 2006.  I have obtained a college degree, become a certified family interventionist and master recovery coach. I have assisted over 1,000 families to date.  My intent in writing this blog is to contribute to the pre-intervention of teens and young adults.  Teens who abuse drugs have a greater risk of developing an addiction when they are adults.  It is important to know the difference between drug abuse and drug addiction. Many teens experiment with drugs but are not addicted.  Not all teens that use drugs become addicts but most all addicts began using drugs in their teenage years.

Recognition and prevention of teenage experimentation can stop an emerging misuse before it begins. Setting good examples and being open to conversations about drug use are strong tools.  It is vital to create a safe environment for open communication and set clear expectations along with clear consequences.   With my dad, it was always “next time” I won’t help you get out of trouble or “next time” I won’t pay bills you are responsible for.  “Next time” never came.  With my dad’s lack of knowledge and my mastery in manipulation, I never had any real consequences.  Dad always helped me with a plan to start over so I could stop.  The truth is,I didn’t have a real problem, there was always someone there who would cosign my victim mentality and entitlement.

When I was in the experimentation phase, trying everything that was available, I believed  I just liked to party. It was during that phase, I stopped growing emotionally.  This is a fact for all teenagers that begin using drugs and alcohol.  Somewhere I crossed the line of choice. Drugs and alcohol are not a problem, but a solution to my problems.  I began trying to stop on my own and my dad always believed in me as well as  the same lie I believed, I could quit on my own.  Dad never knew the struggle or understood the progression of addition.  He had the “yeah but” syndrome just like me.  If someone reported I was using drugs, or he caught me, he would say, “yeah but” he is a good kid; it’s just a phase; his grades are passing; everyone likes him; he was always quick to make excuses for my behavior.  After continuing to deny using drugs, a home drug test was easy to pass and it gave my dad one more “yeah but” he can pass a drug test.  Even though he offered me professional help, he cosigned my plan, believed in me, and never educated himself about addiction.  Many signs were there, he didn’t want to believe it could happen to his son and I always had an excuse.  Bloodshot eyes, I was swimming, or I was tired   because I didn’t sleep well.  Sleeping under a fan made my nose runny.  I quit or lost interest in activities and sports because I didn’t like them, or I was going to do something different.  Smell of cigarette smoke on my clothes, my friends were smoking. Smell of cigarette smoke on my hands, I held a cigarette for my friend.  Missed curfew, it was never my fault.  Deny, deny, deny until he bought it.  Could my dad have prevented my first inhale of a cigarette, marijuana, my first drink of alcohol, first line of cocaine or LSD trip (all done before age 17)?  Could he have stopped it?  I will never know. What I do know, my dad could have been more proactive in my affairs.  

Proactive Steps Parents, Teachers, and/or Mentors Can Take:

  1. Initiate Conversations. Talk BEFORE you suspect drug use and keep the conversation nonjudgmental, honest and understanding. Straightforward questions with the right tone can lead to open communication. Simply asking, “Have you been using drugs or alcohol?” or “Has anyone offered you drugs recently?” can be enough to get the conversation started. (Conversation Starters)
  2. Responding to Admittance or Denial. Don’t overreact if they are honest about using drugs. Overreacting or lashing out can prevent them from being open about their experience.  Do not shame them.
  3. Educate Yourself. There is a strong possibility teens will lie about their drug use, I did for over a decade. Even though my dad assured me he was concerned and wanted to help, he never held me accountable or educated himself about addiction.  Know today’s lingo.  (Learn More)
  4. Understanding the Why. Understanding why some teens are tempted to experiment is also important to know.  Curiosity, peer pressure, stress, emotional struggles, and a desire to escape are some common reasons teens may take the first cigarette or drug.  For me, it was to fit in and be accepted by those I thought were cool. (Learn More)

….To continue to read the full post, If My Dad Had Known, please click here.

Are you or someone you love impacted by addiction?  Do you need support?

Please Contact Us:

Info@EBIntervention.org 

https://ebintervention.org/

(615) 482-1831