Talking to Children About AddictionPosted on July 28, 2012
By Paige Abbott, M.Sc., R.Psych. and Dr. Raju Hajela, Addictionist
If you or your partner struggle with the disease of addiction, the questions of how, when, and if to talk to your children about this are likely prominent in your mind. For many, these questions become so overwhelming and they feel so uncertain that no action is taken and a lack of communication between parents and children ensues.
Unfortunately, this silence is the worst outcome in terms of individual, couple, and family health because there is a lack of openness and honesty, which can perpetuate addictive thinking and behaviour. In this article we will explore why it is important for parents to talk about addiction with their children and how to go about this.
Claudia Black, author of Deceived: Facing Sexual Betrayal, Lies, and Secrets talks about the rationale for disclosure of sexual addiction to children. Of course, this applies to addiction as addiction and is not limited to those with sexual addiction. The reasons to talk openly with children are:
1) Validation: Although parents may think they are being protective of their children by not sharing information, children are intuitive and are likely picking up on changes in the home and their parent(s). Older children may even know or suspect their parent’s addictive behaviours. Disclosure validates their feelings and can diminish worry, anxiety, fear, and shame.
2) Education: Children are exposed to many substances and processes that can become part of addiction. Talking openly and honestly about risks and vulnerabilities from a personal perspective can be more valuable than general information about drugs and alcohol.
3) Safety: If you or your partner’s use is potentially impacting the safety of your children, then it is even more important to have open discussions about addiction. It may also be valuable for the family to develop a safety plan that all members are aware of.
4) Breaking the generational cycle: There is a biological predisposition with the disease of addiction and if you or your partner has this disease, there is a high likelihood that your children are at risk for developing it themselves. Parents convince themselves that sheltering their children from addiction and recovery will benefit their health and wellbeing when the reality is quite the opposite. If children are uninformed about their biological risk for addiction and their parent’s personal journey with addiction and recovery, the more vulnerable they become.
Making the decision to talk to your children about addiction and recovery is certainly not an easy one. However, once you have decided with your partner to talk to your kids, here are some points to keep in mind:
- Keep the discussion age-appropriate. Younger children will have difficulty understanding concepts such as ‘addiction’ and ‘recovery’ but may be able to appreciate that mommy or daddy’s health condition impacts their thinking and behaviour and has been impacting the family dynamic.
- Talk about emotions. Ask the children about their thoughts, feelings, and reactions to what has been happening in the home and with their parents. Engage in a meaningful, supportive dialogue and ask questions!
- Talk about recovery and the steps you (and your partner, if applicable) are taking to move forward with health and wellness (e.g., 12 step meetings, group therapy, individual therapy, etc.).
- Do not get into specifics. Children do not need to be informed of where addiction has taken their parent. Rather, talk about the impact addiction has had on the parent and family and how they can shift the focus to wellness moving forward.
- Invite future dialogue. Encourage your children to talk with you regularly, openly, and honestly about their experiences, emotions, and thoughts related to their parent’s addiction, as well as any concerns they may have about their own risks and vulnerabilities.
- Be on the same page as your partner. If you are in a relationship, it is recommended that both parents/caregivers be on board with the discussion about addiction and share their own emotions and experiences with children.
If you feel unprepared to deal with this on your own, have a facilitator present. Sometimes it can ease the anxiety and worries for the whole family to have a discussion about addiction with a healthcare provider present. Make sure that this is someone you trust and who is knowledgeable about all aspects of addiction and mental health issues.
Fall 2012 Workshop SeriesPosted on July 26, 2012
HUM is pleased to offer three workshop series beginning in October 2012. These workshops will be lead by two of our associates: Dr. Bonnie Lee, Associate Professor at the University of Lethbridge, and Patricia Lavalle, Registered Psychologist. The workshops are:
Improving Your Relationships
by Dr. Bonnie Lee
This workshop blends the use of short lectures, role-plays, sharing, writing, music and meditation to facilitate self-awareness, effective communication, and expressing your presence in the world.
This workshop series will be held on Saturday October 13, 20, 27 and November 3 from 10:00am-1:00pm
Early bird registration rate (before September 15) is $525
Walking with Pain: What to do when it won’t stop
by Patricia Lavalle
In these sessions you will learn and understand the connection between physical pain and emotional distress can, learn that you can impact how you deal with your pain, learn and implement four self-management skills to integrate into your daily life and have peer support.
This workshop series will be held on Monday October 15, 22, and 29 from 6:30-8:00pm
Early bird registration rate (before September 15) is $300
Building Blocks to Better Relationships
by Patricia Lavalle
In these three sessions you will learn and practice building blocks for a solid foundation of respect, intimacy and communication in your relationships. You will also learn healthy conflict management strategies.
This workshop series will be held on Wednesday November 14, 21, and 28 from 6:30-8:00pm
Early bird registration rate (before September 15) is $300
The workshop information package (including registration form) will be e-mailed to all HUM contacts in early August. If you are interested in learning more about these workshops and wanted to register now, please contact Paige Abbott, Clinical Services Manager, at 403-536-2480 or e-mail her at email@example.com
PostersPosted on July 15, 2012
At the suggestion of a HUM client, the team has developed a number of posters outlining recovery concepts. These include the ABCDEs of Addiction, Core Values, Trust Recovery, the Johari Window, Holistic Recovery, and the Serenity Prayer. The proofs are being finalized by our designer at this time. Look forward to the posters colouring up the walls of HUM in the near future. We will also be offering the posters for purchase, with various methods of printing ranging in price from approximately $8-$25 each. Look for this under the ‘Resources’ tab of our website where the HUM Store is now located!
HUM Team UpdatesPosted on July 6, 2012
Sue Newton, Operations Director, has been out of the office for the month of July on a journey to the United Kingdom and Africa. Look forward to an update on her experience in the August newsletter! Thank you to Darlene Karn and Carol McDonnell, Registered Nurses, who assisted with intakes during Sue’s absence.
What people are saying
I just wanted to thank Dr. Hajela, Sue and everyone else at the clinic for teaching me so much on this very short elective. I can see the tremendous difference your clinic makes in the lives of its patients, and it’s very inspiring.
“I am forever grateful for the opportunity and the staff. Each played a crucial role on my journey in recovery. It’s a safe place to be knowing I will be met with understanding, honesty, and compassion.”
“Exactly what I needed-a holistic approach to recovery. Fantastic team approach by the HUM team. Would highly recommend HUM for a successful start to recovery.”
“It was nothing like what I had expected, it was even better and where I am in my journey was originally unimaginable. Thank you for helping me find hope and curiosity!”
“I see that IOP gives me a chance to hear, absorb, integrate, and practice new ways of thinking and acting. Each phase and the time in between also allowed for this knowledge to start to become practical.”
“I really appreciated the professionalism of all the staff. The environment and the people are very welcoming”
“I am convinced this is the single most important program I have and ever will attend. Phenomenal!”
“I’m so impressed with how [Paige] and Dr. Hajela SO understand addiction, and how to help me see the blind spots, release some shame (or at least see it!), gain insight and connect with actually FEELING what is going on with me and how the disease shows up for me ….so amazing… Thank-you very much.”
“[The IOP] was an amazing opportunity. I liked the topics that were covered and the group therapy.”
“[For the IOP] I liked the balance of education, self-care, and sharing. I really like the ongoing discussion in the education sessions and sharing during this time, as well as in group [therapy]”
“[The IOP] was great-not just for recovery, but for life”
Anonymous Evaluation Form
“[IOP] group was great for opening up and constructive feedback”
Anonymous Evaluation Form
“[The IOP was] informative, interactive and entertaining. Keep up the great work!”
“Thank you for the very excellent group [therapy session]. The small change in perspective of my communication is making waves.”
“The newsletter sent to me was a reminder to thank you for your weekly video messages. They are quick but helpful bits of info which give you food for thought! Keep them coming!”
“The Family weekend [of the IOP] was incredible for me personally. Thank you many times over for this wonderful opportunity.”
Rebecca Foster, Foreward Reviews
The mixture of practical information and reassurances make this essential reading for patients and their loved ones.
With their first book, Addiction Is Addiction, Raju Hajela, Sue Newton, and Paige Abbott aim to foster “more open and honest dialogues about the role of Addiction in society, without stigma or judgment.” This comprehensive, well-organized guide discusses the features of addictive thinking and feeling, suggests holistic recovery methods, and offers useful definitions, diagrams, and case studies.
The authors are affiliated with Health Upwardly Mobile Inc., a health and wellness company based in Calgary, Alberta. Tracing the history of addiction back to the eighteenth century, when it was first known as “alcoholic disease syndrome,” they present an expert view of the disease’s symptoms and outlook. By stressing that addiction is a “chronic brain disease” rather than a “moral failing or personal weakness,” they evince a compassionate perspective that will encourage patients and their family members to examine their emotions and take a proactive, spiritual approach to recovery.
Addiction is influenced by both genetics and environment, the former accounting for perhaps 50 to 60 percent of incidence. Trauma does not cause it, but can aggravate it. Although the book is full of such relevant background details, the facts never become overwhelming thanks to the variety of materials included. Intriguing case studies, most of them narrated in first person, are set in italics, and diagrams and tables illustrate patients’ likely feelings, relationship roles, and recovery stages. Reading this should be an interactive experience, what with self-assessment questions and affirmations, a journaling template, and a recovery activities checklist with a sample schedule. Extensive endnotes and bibliography plus a helpful glossary provide ample resources for further research, and chapter summaries will ensure that all the take-home messages sink in.
Sometimes the book goes into too much detail for laymen. However, this means that it can be used by professionals as well as patients. An appendix on chakras seems out of place, even with the book’s focus on spiritual means of recovery. The authors have also made the unusual decision to always capitalize Addiction, “to emphasize that it is a proper noun and the name of a serious disease.” That’s as may be, but in practice it can look like a repeated typing mistake. Information appears to be specific to North America, especially when it comes to funding limitations and patient advocacy, but the general principles of care should be applicable worldwide.
This book is strongly recommended to those who have participated in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. The mixture of practical information and reassurances will make it essential reading for patients and their loved ones.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have his/her book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Review make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.
Three health care professionals present an approach to treating addiction as a disease having both physical and psychological components.
In this debut health book, Hajela, Newton, and Abbott address the challenges of addiction from a holistic medical and social perspective. The book opens with an explanation of addiction—which the authors capitalize throughout, part of their effort to mitigate the stigma associated with the word—as a condition that impairs the functions of the brain. They address the physical and behavioral symptoms associated with it, using pathology as a framework for understanding and treating addiction. Without blaming the patient for developing the condition in the first place, the book attempts to acknowledge the role of personal responsibility in managing a condition often attributed to individual shortcomings. The authors address medical treatments that can be effective for some forms of addiction, like alcohol and opiates, as well as the role of psychotherapy in treating underlying psychological problems and combating the thought patterns that lead to addiction behaviors. While much of the book is aimed at people dealing with addiction, later chapters discuss the roles of friends and family and treatment providers, along with strategies each group can employ in supporting the patient. For the most part, the book advocates a balanced, reasonable approach to dealing with addiction in its many forms, drawing on research and standard practices developed by mainstream organizations. As a result, it is disconcerting when the text introduces energy healing as a component of treatment: “It is important to understand that when people are out of balance in any of the energy centres, or chakras, people run at either a higher or lower level of energy.” Although an appendix explains the concept of chakras in more detail, energy healing is not essential to the book’s mission, and skeptics will still find it a useful resource for developing an approach to treating both the mental and physical aspects of addiction and understanding it as a chronic disease.
Comprehensive approach to treating addiction as a condition affecting both mind and body.
I have found HUM very supportive and non-judgmental, yet I have been challenged every step of the way. The spiritual, emotional, social, and intellectual teaching has been clear and consistent but never forced.
My experience has been mainly positive for the most part. Anything negative or perceived as negative, I have been able to discuss with staff and it is professionally dealt with.
I value my weekly [group therapy] sessions at HUM greatly. My personal experience there means more to me than I can describe in one paragraph. It helps me really understand my recovery and my life when sometimes I feel that everything is lost or in a state of confusion.
I was very fortunate to hear about HUM and then become a patient. I may well have averted death if I did not receive the guidance and support of HUM. Having the backing of HUM as I returned to work and went off again was invaluable. Dr. Hajela listened to me and had the knowledge and understanding that gave me the confidence to be patient in my early recovery. I was never judged though I expected to be. I am grateful beyond words for the help I received in battling my addiction.
Very professional , discreet, and honestly committed to helping people in recovery.
Thought provoking sessions that focus particularly on my addiction. Understanding a problem and all of the subtleties that come with it are crucial to my recovery.
I felt very safe and comfortable and I felt truly cared for by the staff and never judged
[The HUM IOP] was great, I learnt so much
I am very satisfied with the services I receive at HUM. I feel that I am recognized and acknowledged by the staff…I feel very comfortable coming to HUM and appreciate the team approach. In closing, I must say that I feel very supported by the professionals at HUM.
The HUM group is a great asset for any person struggling with addiction as well as the complicated issues that surround them.
I really like how open the staff are. They are easy to connect with and talk to.
The IOP is awesome! This was life changing for me
I appreciate the attitude that recovery is approached with
The IOP provides fantastic support and the feeling that problems are manageable, there is hope in recovery, and it is never too late to seek help