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What Is Codependence/Co-addiction?

Codependence is emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually exhausting.

Codependence is emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually exhausting.

Codependence, also known as co-addiction, can wreck havoc on a person’s life.  It is best explained through a hypothetical example:

Karen is a 30 year old woman who has struggled for years with addiction to crystal meth.  She first tried it when she was 20.  She began to use more and more frequently until she was crashing on “friends'” couches instead of having a home, lost her job, and sometimes went a few days without affording food.  Throughout this period of time she stayed in contact with her mom.

Karen’s mom, Jane, was naturally worried sick about her daughter.  Sometimes Karen would move back in with Jane.  Jane always made Karen promise not to use anymore, but would never stick with her rules.  She justified allowing Karen to use methamphetamine in the house because, ‘At least then I know where she is and I know she’s safe.’  She paid for seven rehabs for Karen.  At some point Jane had to take a second mortgage on her home to try and pay for another rehab.  Jane also would give Karen money when she saw that Karen was hungry.  She paid for Karen’s cell phone bill, ‘so I don’t lose track of her.’  Essentially Jane’s addiction became trying to help Karen get healthy.

On the surface Jane sounds like a loving mom going to any length to help her daughter.  Indeed Jane’s actions are motivated by a combination of love and fear.  The problem though is that Jane is helping Karen continue to use drugs, and has completely destroyed her own financial future.  Every time Jane gives Karen money, pays for her cell phone, or allows her to move home when she is not clean and sober, it frees up what little money Karen gets to buy more meth.  Although Jane does not directly give Karen money to buy meth, she does indirectly.  Also, Karen has not really shown any signs that she wants to get better.  Despite this, Jane has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and fix this.  Jane has paid for rehabs (these are typically quite expensive), cell phone, money for food, etc.  Jane now has an extra large mortgage, which will financially burden her into retirement.

Like many people who struggle with co-addiction, Jane’s entire identity is wrapped up in trying to convince her daughter to get better.   Karen’s addiction did not have to ruin Jane’s life too.  While Karen’s addiction would have always been a source of pain and deep disappointment for Jane, both she and Karen would have been better off if Jane held firm and healthy boundaries.

As a therapist who focuses on treatment of addiction in families, helping to disentangle the web of codependency is one of the main things I do.  And, actually, when the codependent family member or friend changes their behavior to a healthier position, oftentimes the addict decides to get better.  If the story of Karen and Jane feels a little too close to home, firstly, my heart hurts for you.  Secondly, the stronger you get, the more you are helping the addict you love to recover.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Tip for Depression

Depression is a monster.  It is a joy-sucking, energy-draining, hope-stealing beast that sits on your chest until even the effort to breathe is strenuous.  Clawing your way out of depression takes a force of will equivalent to climbing the last 300ft. of Mt. Everest; one is devoid of oxygen or presence of mind.  The only way to climb Mt. Everest or to come up for air when drowning in depression is one small, intentional movement at a time.  Please watch this 60 second video on one of the most helpful tips for depression I’ve come across in my decade of counseling teenagers (The credit for this tip goes to Carrie Johnson, another outstanding member of the counseling team at Teen Therapy OC).

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Goals Have To Matter

Your teenager will end up feeling unfulfilled if the goals he or she is working towards are not actually meaningful.  We expend a lot of energy working on goals that prove to ourselves we rank higher than others.  We seek to have more money, drive a nicer car, etc.  There isn’t anything wrong with nice stuff at all, but have it for the right reasons.  Similarly, there isn’t anything wrong with a teen wanting to be a valedictorian, but let’s pursue that for a love of learning rather than simply to say we’re number 1.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Some Thoughts for Parents on Teens Attempting Suicide

Feeling alone and sad can lead to a teen’s thoughts of suicide.
Credit: Flickr/Andrew Schwegler

It’s late in the evening for me (9pm, and yes I know that makes me a whimp), but I had to get some thoughts down for you.  This comes from a place of saddness, so bear with me.

 

You seriously don’t know how long you have with your teen.  You think you know, but you don’t.  God is in control of the length of your life, and not you.  There are things that happen we never see coming and they can hit us like a car driving 60mph straight into a brick wall.  The twists and turns that befall a family are unpredictable as the wind, and sometimes these are tragic.

 

This year I have sat with two teenagers who came to therapy after making serious attempts on their lives.  I have sat with countless others who have wanted to end it all.  Thankfully none have succeeded.

 

Parents, this is something that seems to be afflicting our youth with a sickening prevalence.  Our teenagers are lost.  They cannot understand why their lives seem to be fraught with difficulty when their friends all look so happy online.  Many haven’t learned fortitude, and therefore become overwhelmed by their day to day problems.  In this digital age they expect instant results.  When they don’t feel better immediately, they presume they will be stuck in their depressed state forever; forever is a very long time.

 

We have a huge responsibility to teach our children how to 1) hope in the dark times and 2) communicate their angst.  To address the first point, your child needs to understand that he is created for a purpose.  Your child also needs to understand that in no way is he behind if he doesn’t know what his purpose is.  Your child needs to know his life isn’t ruined if things don’t go according to plan.  Do you know the number of college students I’ve worked with over the years who didn’t get into the college of their choice, and ended up glad to be at their second, third or even fourth choice?  Do you know the number of broken-hearted girls I’ve counseled who contacted me years later to say they’ve met their future spouse (and he isn’t that boy from high school)?  Your teenager needs to know that life evolves and there is always hope in God.

 

Regarding point number two, how to communicate angst, teach your adolescents that it is okay not to be okay.  This is something you’ll have to model.  Maybe you even need to learn this for the first time in your life.  Not everyday is good and enjoyable, and that’s just life.  Weird, upsetting, stressful things happen…to ALL of us.  Sometimes there is nothing wrong, but everything still feels wrong.  That is also okay.  No, we don’t sit helplessly waiting for someone else to fix our problems.  However, we do have to tolerate times where things aren’t right and we’re powerless to change our circumstances.  In those times acceptance is a big tool.  So please, don’t come home from work throwing things around the house and cursing because your boss is probably cutting you at the next layoff.  You cannot control that.  Just show that while you don’t like it, you accept it.  It does wonders for your watching teenager.

 

At the end of all this though, realize teens are vulnerable.  Even the most happy, popular, athletic kid who seems to have it all going for him is vulnerable.  Teenagers have intensely stormy moods at times without the maturity to wait them through.  These are the concerning moments; these are the times when impulsivity is a teen’s worst enemy.

 

So yes, this has been a hard fought year.  The 2017-2018 school year was full of difficulties for our teenagers.  They were faced with crazy pressure, and are some of the least prepared I’ve ever seen to deal with disappointment.  Let’s band together as a community and use our village to help them through.  Let’s set our phones down and pay more attention.  Goodness knows they need it.  And above all else, let’s make sure we’re talking to them enough to know if they feel suicidal.  We can’t help if we don’t know.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Congrats Class of 2018!

This year I have worked with a larger than usual number of seniors in high school.  It’s been really fun!  Each and every one of you have courageously pushed through your individual struggles.  You have been awesome!  Congratulations on the milestone of finishing high school well.

 

Here’s a quick video of me singing your praises:

So proud of the class of 2018

A post shared by Teen Therapy OC (@laurengoodmanmft) on

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT