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Drug and alcohol addiction in adolescents

Drug and alcohol addiction in adolescents

You, unhappy adolescent with drug or addiction wearing black sweatshirt with hood on.

I’ve included a poem about drug and alcohol addiction in adolescents for today’s post. I think this poem really captures the pain an addict faces each and every day. Sadly, the struggle quickly moves beyond an adolescent’s ability to control it. For example, many teenagers start out with trying drugs just to have fun. However, their brains develop tolerance. As a result, before they know it, they have become addicted. You usually notice it before they are willing to admit it. In fact, sometimes you notice it before they realize it. Whatever the progression, it’s scary and it’s heartbreaking.

© Cody

Published on September 2008


Another day of life by the drop.
I pray to lord, help me stop.

I awake in pain, feeling shame.
Knowing soon again I’ll play the game.

For the brief second with my self.
Before I walk over to that shelf.

I stop and think of all the things I do.
And the people I hurt while drinking booze.

I grip the bottle o’ so tight.
I won’t let go until the night.

All these thoughts rush through my head.
Loves and pride and things I once said.

I know it’s from the former me.
The one that can no longer be.

It hits me hard, I cannot cope.
So drink until I start to choke..

Day to day, I live like this.
High to high and kiss to kiss.

I hope one day, the drunk will let me out.
And never again will I drink and shout.

Until that time I’ll drown and hate.
I just hope that’s not my final fate.


As noted above, drug addiction and alcohol abuse in teenagers imprisons them.  Consequently, if your teen is struggling with drug use, please get them help.  Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as “just stopping.”  It’s a huge and tormenting challenge to become and remain sober.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Codependent with Your Teen Addict

Codependent with Your Teen Addict

Codependency with an Addicted Teen Feels Painful

Are you codependent with your teen addict? How do you ever stop chasing the addicted teen? Almost certainly you have heard the advice that someone must reach rock bottom. But you fear, ‘What if rock bottom is death?’ That is such an overwhelming, driving fear for parents that codependency with a teenage addict is almost impossible to avoid. In my case, when I look into the faces of my children, I can tell you I will give my very life to save them.

Sometimes I think about how much Jesus loves us. Since he gave his life to save us, it seems like he is codependent. But then I remember he gave his life to save those who want saving. As a result, his gift on the cross doesn’t save someone who refuses it. In contrast, this is what codependent parents of teens deal with. They give gifts of a path to freedom from addiction to a teenager who doesn’t want it. Sadly, it ends up breaking the parent down and the teen doesn’t get better. Somehow, some way, you must wait (or force rock bottom) until your teen is ready to accept the gift.

A Poem Written About Codependency with an Addict

Someone codependent with a teen addict might make this apple martini for the teen rather than have the teen go out to party.

Addiction is heartbreaking for everyone in the family.

The Battle

© Julie

The words that have yet been spoken
The things I need to say.
To voice what’s within my heart
I just can’t find a way.

I’ve fought with my emotions
I’ve held them deep inside.
I didn’t want to face what for so long
You’ve tried to hide.

I’ve been lost within the dark
For so long I’ve seen no light.
Holding on to the memory
of a time when things were right.

I’ve looked upon your face
And seen the sadness in your eyes.
The battle of addiction
You no longer can disguise.

I’ve prayed to find the answers
Of what I myself must do.
And I’ve prayed for the strength to fight
Through the hell that I go through.

I’ve held on for so long
But I can no longer watch you die.
I cannot fight this for you
But Lord knows how I’ve tried.

It’s just so hard to watch the ones you love
Slowly slip away.
That’s why I just blocked it out
And held onto yesterday.

I don’t have all the answers
Or the power to save your soul.
You’re broken, lost and lonely
And I cannot make you whole.

This fight is yours and yours alone
No matter what I do.
For I cannot save you
The only one who can is you.

Poem Source: The Battle Of Addiction, Addiction Poems

If This Poem is About A Parent Codependent with a Teen Addict…

What a powerful poem! It is soul-crushing to watch someone we love battle addiction. The author of this poem covers the extreme internal angst of codependency. Although I don’t know what the relationship of this author is to the addict, I picture it as a mother talking to her teenager. I imagine her seeing the child she knew inside and taking every desperate step to save that child. Unfortunately, as each step yields her no results, she realizes she is codependenct with her teen’s addiction. As a result, she eventually makes the gut-wrenching decision to stop preventing this child from hitting rock bottom. Thus she sees that is a step needed to stop teen addiction. Consequently, she is no longer willing to be codependent with her teen addict.

To sum up, if your teenager is coping with addiction, then my heart breaks with yours. I have watched teens fall into the deep pit of addiction to drugs, alcohol, pornography, or an unhealthy significant other to the extent they became almost unrecognizable. It is agonizing.

Helping teens grow, and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Teen Phone Addiction (And Other Issues)

Teen Phone Addiction (And Other Issues)

A family connected because of reduced teen phone addiction. Image courtesy of photostock at

Disciplining teenagers doesn’t have to be a fight
Image courtesy of photostock at

Disciplining Teens Effectively

Teen phone addiction is a growing problem, and it sometimes requires consequences to break the cycle. When your kids are little giving consequences is easy.  You sit them in time-out for a few minutes if they misbehave.  If your kids are throwing a temper tantrum you completely ignore them until it stops and they ask nicely.  When they misuse a toy you take it from them.  As they get older it gets harder.  However, a lot of parents try and use the same techniques (albeit modified) with teenagers for teen phone addiction, ditching school, and talking back (among other behaviors) that they used with small children.

This is what I mean.  A teenager violates a rule such as ditching school.  You put them in “teenager time-out,” which means you ground them.  Your teen “throws a temper tantrum,” which means they are talking back to you and possibly even screaming obscenities.  You ignore them or argue back.  Your cell phone addicted adolescent sneaks the phone at night, or in other words, “misuses a toy.”  You take it from them.  Some of these techniques work for certain kids, but for others, these types of consequences seem ineffective.

When Teens Ditch Class

How do you give consequences to a teenager?  Your teenager is nearing adulthood.  They need to feel the pain of adult consequences while you’re still there to guide them through it.  When your teenager ditches school and the school calls to ask where your child is, it’s better not to bail them out by telling the school your kid came home sick, with the idea that you will handle the punishment.  It’s usually better for your teen’s character development to tell the school that you don’t know where your child is, and you assume they must have cut class.  You then ask the school to levy an appropriate consequence such as Saturday school.  When your teenager comes home you very calmly tell them you received a call from the school today.  You tell your teen it will be a bummer to serve Saturday school.  If they ask you to help them move the Saturday school because they have work or a big game, etc., you just say calmly, “Well you felt old enough to decide whether or not you should attend class, so I guess that means you’re old enough to figure it out now.  Good luck with that.”  Don’t be sarcastic when you say this.  Tell them also, “I have plans Saturday morning by the way, so I won’t be able to get you to the Saturday school.  You’ll have to figure that out too.”  Then you don’t discuss it or bring it up again.  In fact, you act like you don’t really care.  They might ask you, “Are you mad at me?”  You respond, “I was at first, but then I figured that it’s your problem to solve.”

Why Grounding Your Teen Doesn’t Always Work

Do you see how much more effective this is than grounding your teenager?  You refuse to take on their problems.  Also, if you ground your teen then you have to enforce it.  That makes you the bad guy when you refuse to let them attend their Saturday soccer game, or it makes you appear weak if you do let them attend.  It also means they think of how “unfair” you are when they are grounded instead of the mistake they made; they don’t learn as much.

How to Deal with Teen Backtalk

Now for scenario number two, when your teenager is being disrespectful in the way they talk to you.  If you don’t win the argument, you’ve lost.  Even a stalemate means you’ve lost.  How do you avoid this problem?  Don’t argue.  At all costs, avoid engaging in an argument.  Keep repeating, “I’m not going to argue with you right now,” in a calm tone.  You can also say, “We’ll talk about this tomorrow.”  That gives you time to think and your child time to reassess their position and approach.  Finally, if your teenager keeps at you, ask them, “What did I say?”  Stay calm and avoid the argument, but don’t completely ignore them.  Another thing you can say sometimes is, “I see what you’re saying.  Let me think about that and get back to you in a few hours.”  Just remember that nothing is ever on fire.  Most of the time your adolescent thinks it is because adolescents are an impatient group, but it’s not.  Do not let their urgency force you to respond faster than you can think through something.  Buy yourself some time.

An Idea for Excessive Teen Phone Use

Scenario number three is when you’re dealing with teen cell phone addiction.  Your first temptation is to take their phone away.  This actually creates problems for you in staying connected with them.  It is better if you get the cell bill, highlight their cost, and set it on the kitchen table.  When your teenager comes into the kitchen, ask them to take a look at the cell phone bill.  Tell them calmly, “It looks like you have violated our request to moderate your cell phone usage, so you will need to pay for the phone on your own this month.  We pay the bill on Friday, so by Thursday you need to come up with a plan for how you will get me that money.”  Then go back to what you were doing and let them solve the problem.  They will likely argue with you or say, “I don’t have that kind of money.”  Let them know you are here to help them find a solution if they’d like your help.

The most important thing to take away from this is that you are letting them have most of the say in how they resolve the problem.  If you come at your teen and angrily say, “You have screen addiction, so now you’re going to mow the lawn for the next ten weeks!” what have you taught them?  They will mow the lawn and think about how you are unreasonable.  If THEY come to you and suggest they will mow the lawn until they’ve worked it off, every time they mow the lawn they will think about how they watched too much Youtube.  You avoid being the bad guy, and your teenager learns a valuable lesson!

Love and Logic- A Helpful Resource

For more great ideas on how to effectively, and calmly discipline a teenager, read  It’s a wonderful, easily digestible resource for better parenting. We all know the “screenagers” of today need a lot of help with teen phone addiction, disrespectful talk to parents, and a million other things. As a parent, I greatly empathize with you in trying to parent today. There are many, many challenges. We are each doing our best because we love our teenagers. Sometimes setting things up a little differently makes discipline a lot more effective.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

What Do I Do With A Sneaky Kid?

What Do I Do With A Sneaky Kid?

Teens who sneak are often unhappy about the mistrust their parents have for them. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Teens who sneak are often unhappy about the mistrust their parents have for them.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

What do you do if you’re one of the unlucky parents who has a sneaky teen?  You put very clear rules in place, but your teenager continues to do the wrong thing?  A lot of the time you’d even say yes if they’d simply ask, but they sneak anyhow.  This is incredibly frustrating for a parent.  It’s not that you want to control your teenager- you don’t.  You just want a trusting relationship between the two of you.  You want them to trust that you will say yes when it’s appropriate, and you want to trust they are doing what they tell you they’re doing.


The first thing you need to ask yourself is why they are sneaking.  You may or may not be able to answer this question.  If you believe they are sneaking because they are using drugs, having sex, or doing something otherwise dangerous they know you’d put a stop to, address this immediately.  For those of you that are pretty certain your adolescent isn’t doing anything dangerous, but is sneaking for some other reason, read on.


Perhaps one reason your teenager is sneaking is because you say no too often.  They feel confident you won’t give them any space if they ask for it.  They think the only way to have a little room to explore who they are is to go without permission.  I once worked with a teen boy who kept saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than ask permission.”  In his case, he was right.  He learned this very quickly and realized it was the only way he was ever going to date, try going to a party, or even get into minor mischief like toilet papering a friend’s house.


Another reason an adolescent could be sneaking is they are engaging in certain activities you wouldn’t approve of.  One way that many, many teenagers sneak is with their phones.  A lot of teens have smart phones now, and a great number of them download apps you would not like if you only knew they were there.  They know you’d make them take the apps off, and they don’t want to.


Whatever the reason(s) your teenager is being sneaky, here are a few ideas you can try to minimize this behavior.  The first thing to try is a heartfelt heart to heart chat.  This isn’t the situation where you punish them or get angry with them for what they’ve been doing.  Instead you talk about how it hurts you not to feel like you can trust your own child.  You ask them how they’ve been feeling when you keep getting frustrated with them as you catch them in their lies.  You and the teenager put your heads together to come up with a plan that will change this.


If this doesn’t work, you may have to try a less collaborative approach.  Warn your teenager this is coming if they don’t start being much, much more honest.  Then, outline very clear consequences that will occur if they are caught lying/sneaking.  Do this with a lot of love.  You don’t need to yell or even have a stern voice.  The only thing that is very important is you follow through on whatever consequence you’ve promised to give.  Be extremely consistent.  Reward them for honesty too.


Your final option is to make their world really small so it’s hard to sneak anything.  However, if you do this take care to make sure they don’t start resenting you.  You want all consequences you administer to children to make them think about how their action caused this result.  You don’t want them thinking, “My parents are such unfair jerks.”  They won’t learn anything that way.


Sneakiness is a really challenging character struggle to contend with and correct.  You are not alone in your aggravation.  Any parent who has dealt with a sneaky teenager feels angry, sometimes scared, and occasionally hopeless.  Just try your best to work on what you need to work on, keep loving them well, and be patient as you help them course correct.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Tips for teens after leaving rehab

Tips for teens after leaving rehab

Making new, sober friends after rehab is essential.  Image courtesy of photostock at

Making new, sober friends after rehab is essential.
Image courtesy of photostock at

Leaving rehab is usually a celebratory time.  People discharge rehab feeling very strong and certain they will not relapse on drugs.  They have gone over and over what they need to do in order to stay sober.  Any good rehab will warn its clients how easy it is to lapse back into the old lifestyle.  Plans are set, barriers against using drugs or alcohol are put in place, and the person goes home.

Now what?

Here are some tips for staying sober:

1. Get plugged in.  Find a recovery group that has strong, consistent members.  Teenagers often feel awkward about walking into new situations.  However, this is truly life or death and it is worth overcoming the embarrassment.  Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery are two types of groups that can be very helpful.  There is a Celebrate Recovery just for teenagers called The Landing.

2. Find a new hobby.  Old habits and activities remind teens of when they used to use drugs or alcohol.  New hobbies don’t have the old associations.  If you used to get stoned and then listen to loud music, it’s time to hike instead.  If these are hobbies where a social group can be joined, even better.

3.  Recognize that it is easy to stay sober around sober people.  Your teenager no longer has a physical need for their drug because they overcame that in rehab.  There will be a psychological attraction to the drug for a long time after the physical need has disappeared.  Teenagers who come home and immediately get involved with wholesome kids have a much lower rate of relapse.  On the contrary, teens who come home and see old friends have a high rate of relapse.

4.  Be honest.  Parents, you need to allow your teenagers to tell you if they are having cravings.  They need to be able to tell you without you getting really upset.  If they can come to you, then you can help them through it.  Discuss your plan for this ahead of time.  Agree that if they are having a craving you will take them down to the beach and just walk with them, or something like that.

5.  Do not assume you are immune to relapse.  Teenagers comes out of rehab overconfident.  This means they call old friends and sit to the side while friends use.  Before long they just take a drag on a cigarette.  Then it’s, “I just used pot once.  That’s not really a serious drug though.”  Quickly they are all the way back into it whatever they went to rehab for in the first place.

Following these 5 tips will really help your teenager keep their sobriety after rehab.  It is a challenging thing to do.  With the right attitude and focus though, it’s entirely achievable.  Probably the most important two tips on this list are the ones discussing social groups.  Teenagers are heavily, heavily influenced by peers.  Being around clean and sober people makes recovery much easier.

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Porn Addiction In Teenagers

Porn Addiction In Teenagers

Sexual addiction affects adults and teens alike. Image courtesy of photostock /

Sexual addiction affects adults and teens alike.
Image courtesy of photostock /

More and more teens are engaging in pornography use.  The majority of the use seems to be on their phones.  Adolescents are very private about their cell phones.  It is harder for parents to monitor what they search than when there was a family computer.


According to Covenant Eyes, a company that sells a way to block certain web content from either accidentally coming up, or from coming up as the result of a search, the statistics are unsettling.  For teens, a 2010 national study indicated that about 25% of teenagers have viewed nudity online by accident.  Over 1/4 of 17 year olds have received a “sext” at some point.  9 out of 10 teenage boys have been exposed to pornography by time they reach college.  The same is true in almost 6 out of 10 teen girls.


Recently in my private practice I have been receiving desperate calls from parents whose teen children are addicted to internet porn.  The parents feel helpless and frustrated.  For starters, there is more shame in admitting you need help to stop a sexual addiction than even a drug addiction.  It seems easier for a parent to call me and say their teenager is addicted to marijuana, alcohol, or even methamphetamine than to online pornography.


If your child is struggling with this, or you are struggling with this, the first thing to do is set aside your shame.  Shame makes us hide.  We feel mortified about something we are doing, or some part of who we are.  When we feel ashamed of something, it is very difficult to talk about it.  However, getting it out in the open is how healing begins.  Think about when you have a wound, it needs to be cleaned out and it needs air to heal.  If you hide away your wound then it just begins to spread infection to other parts of the body.  Sexual addiction is like that (as are any other addictions).  If you don’t discuss it, even if that is incredibly difficult to do, it starts to affect other areas of life; addiction makes the most honest people into liars, the most responsible people into schemers, and emotionally closes off the most open and loving people.


Therapy is one of the best places to talk about sexual addiction.  It is confidential and free of judgment.  You will not shock your therapist.  Your therapist should be able to help you pick a path back to health.  This is not easy.  Many people assume if you want to stop a sexual addiction then just stop looking at the porn.  If it were that simple I doubt anyone would have the addiction.  Whether or not the images are viewed, they still exist in your teen’s mind’s eye.  It takes a lot of work and time to get to the place where those images don’t pop up each time your teenager thinks about sex.


Patrick Carnes is one of the leaders on treating sexual addiction.  He wrote a book called Out of the Shadows that is very helpful for those with addiction, and the people that love them.  If you’re reading this because you want help, but you’re afraid to say that out loud, then I recommend you start with this book.


If you or your child is struggling with sexual addiction and you are ready to say that out loud, don’t wait any longer.  Go and get the help you or your teenager needs.


Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MFT