Help the Kids!!! All of the Secrets Revealed!!!

Please Help the Kids…Serve as Hope for Someone Else!!!
Contact me and be part of the movement!
petermonnmsw@gmail.com

My Twelve Steps Companion iPhone application tells me that as of today I’ve been clean and sober 16.76 years or 201.14 months or 6,122 days or 146,927 hours. That’s a lot of time but honestly, sometimes it feels like it was just yesterday that I was with my friends in high school drinking and partying. For years I worked with teenagers in an inpatient, addiction treatment center but today I am a private practice therapist who works with clients with varying issues and ages. Pain is universal.

But before I get too deep into the background story…for those of you who just want to be part of this project, let me take a moment to pause and explain. Daily I’m asked for advice on the strangest, but most honest, parts of the lives of teenagers using drugs and alcohol. Most days I receive phone calls from teenagers asking me how to talk to a friend or what drugs are safe for them to use. While my answers to these questions varies, I rarely give advice on safe drugs to use, what is apparent is most kids feel they have nowhere to turn for the real answers. Parents, teachers, other counselors, nurses, etc…call me daily too asking all kinds of questions about new over the counter drugs, or how much certain drugs cost or what boundaries they should or shouldn’t set. I have decided to begin a project where all of this advice can be easily accessed so parents and teenagers can be more successful and have the lives they dream of having. You want to be the next Jennifer Hudson, Kurt Cobain, Kid Cudi or Lil Wayne…it’s all waiting, you just have to reach out and grab it. I am asking anyone who had drug and alcohol problems as a teenager but is successful today to be part of my project. I am also asking anyone affected by these teenagers drug or alcohol use, but learned what worked and didn’t work to be part of this project. If you’re interested, please contact me at petermonnmsw@gmail.com for more information…but I encourage you to read on!

I can still remember being on the adult unit of the hospital where I got sober and listening to the teenage girls while they smoked on the patio at night, laughing with each other and talking about the dude’s number they got at the AA meeting they had gone to earlier. I remember watching in disbelief as the counselor monitoring them sat inside writing group notes, not paying attention to the girls or they mindless chatter. How could she not want to be part of this mesmerizing conversation? For years I had therapists who would fall asleep during our sessions or would trust the word of my parents instead of mine, never attempting to relate to my youthful beliefs or even remotely trying to see things from my point of view. So I thought to myself, I could do this. I could be that counselor or therapist I never had when I was a teenager. I could relate and show kids that adults can relate to them. Adults can be wrong and apologize first. Adults can listen to the same music, watch the same music and watch the same movies and television shows…not because they’re fake, but because that’s what they enjoy. (I can’t stand anyone fake so in my years of working with teenagers it’s been vital that when I am uneducated on a certain band or movie, to honestly more about their interests and ask for suggestions so I can decide on my own if I like a certain band. Some I’ve loved…some I still can’t stomach.)

Years ago I read a book by the editor of Sassy magazine where she described her attitude towards putting a magazine out for teenage girls. She described how her reader was the girl who walked down the hallway and had freckles or underdeveloped breasts, or overdeveloped breasts. Every boy looked at her or no boy looked at her. These girls didn’t feel they “fit it” and for them, this was traumatic, much the same way we consider sexual or physical abuse. She talked about sitting down on the floor and pulling her jeans up and getting down on their level to talk. Later, I had a professor who worked at Indiana Girl’s School who shared that she had a huge basket filled with cheap bottles of cheap nail polish. In exchange for talking to her, the girls were allowed to paint her nails. Often, she walked out of those sessions with a different color on every fingernail…but the girls talked…and they eventually felt better. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

And then the boys. The forgotten diverse population of our times. After 15 years working in the field of teenagers I have realized we assume our boys are going to be just fine because they’re boys. We make statements to boys like “grow up” or “be a man”, but nobody teaches them how to be men. They are afraid of growing up in a world without instructions and therefor front to make it appear they have a clue about the real world. Most do not and we are setting them up for failure. It is our job to hold their hands, even if they are resistant, through the dark, guiding them until they find their way. As a gay counselor I was apprehensive at times to work with male clients, but even to this day, I’ve always had amazing trusting and therapeutic relationships with the hardest core teenage men. They don’t care for bullshit and I do not bullshit.

Parents have asked me for 15 years what my secret has been working with teenagers. I just think like a teenager. I don’t have to try because honestly, most days I feel like I could wake up and this could all have been a dream and I’m still in high school myself. I try to treat teens the way I wanted to be treated, while still setting limits, boundaries and structure because I believe that’s what I wanted and needed. I had a mother look at her daughter during family group while she was discussing the love she felt for her boyfriend and the mother shouted “you don’t know what love is! You’re 15!” Let’s be honest. Love doesn’t feel a whole lot different at 15 than it does at 50. Quit lying to your kids. They know you’re full of shit when you do!

And that’s really the secret. Really listening to what the kids are telling us.

This has never been better stated than in the movie Bowling for Columbine when the director Michael Moore interviews singer Marilyn Manson whose music supposedly served as inspiration for the violence.
Michael Moore: If you were to talk directly to the kids at Columbine or the people in that community, what would you say to them if they were here right now?
Marilyn Manson: I wouldn’t say a single word to them I would listen to what they have to say, and that’s what no one did.

Today…I am listening. I have cleaned my ears out and I am listening like I have never listened before. For years I have been frustrated with the lack of resources for teenagers, parents, siblings and everyone who has been affected by drugs and alcohol as a teenager. The parents have no clue what to do and what decisions are right and the kids think what they’re doing is normal. I get questions daily like, “Since my son is in treatment, should I pay his dealer because he owes him $1500.” or “I don’t really care that she hangs around Sally. They’ve been friends since they were in 7th grade and Sally is a really good girl and comes from a good family. What about the other friends.” First of all, don’t ever pay your kids drug debts, you might as well have bought the drugs, which indirectly you did so own it. And second, Sally isn’t as pure as you think she is but that’s not the point. Your daughter is the worst friend she’s ever had so stop focusing on her friends.

But where is this advice? Where is the truth from kids, teachers, drug dealers, parents, siblings, therapist, probation officers and cops that everyone searches for and ends up calling me or some other therapist. It doesn’t exist…yet.

Every day I am contacted in some way by past clients or patients who I worked with as teenagers. Not all of them liked me when I worked with them, but somehow, they made it out and are successful today. Not all are in 12-step programs and not all of them are clean and sober, but ALL are successful in my book! I had a passing thought of starting a small project and so I chose ten of these young people and contacted asking for their help. ALL ten immediately responded and said they would be more than happy to help. Thus grew a larger idea and a larger idea and a larger idea. At this moment, I have a project in place to provide this advice and guidance my past families and patients have been looking for but couldn’t find.

This is where I help YOU to HELP THE KIDS!!! I am looking for anyone who struggled with drugs and alcohol as teenagers but made it out and is successful today. This does not necessarily mean you are clean and sober, but I am encouraging those people as well. I am also asking parents, sponsors, teachers, probation officers, therapists, counselors, doctors, friends, siblings, neighbors…anyone who experienced working with a teenager suffering from drugs and alcohol who has the inside scoop on what did and didn’t work for you that helped them be successful. If you are interested, please contact me at petermonnmsw@gmail.com with your name and email and I will forward you the outline for the beginning of this exciting project. And let me be very clear! This by no means is an attempt to replace any 12-step program. I am hoping that members of 12-step programs will also assist to offer examples of what works for them to be successful as well. I no longer want anyone, no matter their age, to feel that they don’t know where to turn for an honest answer about addiction and recovery.

Please help the kids! Serve as hope for someone else!
And if you have any questions or need immediate assistance you can always reach me at 317-796-3101.

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Pickled…

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Earlier today, I was talking to a client about the pickle jar lady and I realized that I had never written about her, which is a shame because I owe her my life…

My sobriety date is December 17, 1994. I was in treatment over Christmas and New Year’s and if I remember correctly, it was one of the coldest and snowiest winters we had had in a very long time. I can remember standing outside of the cafeteria, smoking a cigarette in my pajamas and parka, holding one leg up and then the other, as the snow drifted around my slipper covered feet. Near blizzard conditions! And yet, it was painfully peaceful. Although I had a horrific detox, close to seven days, once I entered the rehab part of my stay, I settled into the daily schedule and routine and spent the nights listening to “AA people” tell their stories and then I would go and drink some decaf, smoke about two packs of cigarettes and settle back into one of my several Michael Chrichton books my friend had brought as a gift. During my entire treatment, I only had a roommate in detox, so I often snuck into my bathroom, put a towel around the bottom of the door, sat on the floor and read and smoked. That damn bathroom became my safe refuge for 35 days!

And then on December 23rd, life got a little tough. My cigarettes ran out. If you’ve never been to jail or drug/alcohol treatment, let me inform you that cigarettes are a commodity which could raise many dollars on the underground market of the hallways and cafeteria lines. No one was going to give up smokes for free, especially with 30 mile and hour gusting winds and heavy snow, limited the number of people coming in for visits. A quick call to my father educated me of the fact that he had no intention of bringing me anything “habit forming” and that he wasn’t going to indulge my addiction anymore.

I had only one option. Every night at around 7pm, patients who were in rehab and had signed up, receiving permission from their counselor, could leave the building by a staff driven van, and attend an off campus AA meeting. I knew these vans typically stopped at gas stations allowing the patients to buy cigarettes and candy. It was my only chance.

So…I bundled up in a heavy sweater, put my boots on and headed out for the night…in search of cigarettes…which was the first stop we made right across the street. I remember clearly because it was the first time I had been out in over a week and I was like a kid in a giant toy store for the first time. I bought a carton of Camel Wides, several Reece’s cups, a bag of Combo’s and a strong cup of REAL coffee. And then we were on our way into the blizzard. What I didn’t know was that down that slick street lay my most life defining moment yet…
blizzard

I had never been to an AA meeting outside of treatment, so I didn’t know what was waiting for me. The driver let us off at the door a church and we all walked inside and down a small set of stairs into the basement. Before we even got to the room, I could see a cloud of cigarette smoke wafting out of the door. We went in to find several round tables set up facing a podium and in the back of the room, people were milling around a coffee maker. I quickly made myself a strong cup of coffee and sat at a table in the very back.

Several minutes later the meeting started. I don’t remember much about the meeting until the speaker, a small woman in her mid fifties, started telling her tale. Before she started, she placed an enormous pickle jar on top of the podium. True to the traditions of AA, I will try and leave much of her story out, but she talked about having a prominent career which she lost within a few years of the beginning of her drinking. I remember she said that at the end of her drinking, she was sleeping under a park bench. I thought she was lying. I couldn’t believe that this woman, who seemed to have it all together, seemingly a normal housewife with kids and a husband, could have ever been such a drinker.

Never once during her speaking did she ever mention the jar of pickles, until the very end. And right before she finished her story, she gestured to the pickle jar. “And that is why I carry this jar with me when I speak.” She said, “To remind me. That once I was a cucumber, but now I’m a pickle. And once you’re pickled, you can never go back.”

And I stopped. I mean I completely stopped in my tracks and stared straight at her. That bitch! I thought. How dare she! Because…she was so true! In that moment I realized she was exactly right. I was a pickle. And no matter how much I didn’t want to deal with it, things would never be the same for me again. I would never, ever be able to drink successfully again. I knew it in my heart and soul. It was truth. And I’d like to say she was staring right at me when she said it, but she wasn’t. She didn’t know me. I was alone in my realization. And I was alone as I went upstairs and stood in the blowing snow, smoking a cigarette as the church choir practiced Adeste Fideles inside, their melody chiming through the windows. After all, it was Christmas, and I was in treatment for drugs and alcohol. Merry Fucking Christmas!

And as we drove back to the hospital, something changed in me. I remember sitting in the back of the van, watching the snow fall heavy in the lights of night, cars swerving all of the street. And as we passed Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Arby’s, Long John Silver’s and probably twenty other fast food restaurants, where for five dollars I could buy any kind of deliciousness, I listened to the reporter on National Public Radio talk about how women in Azerbaijan were being pulled naked through the streets and raped. And I realized, this was as bad as my life had to get. I had a wonderful life, and as my father had said earlier that day on the phone, “you’re pissing your life away and you don’t even realize it!”

And when we returned to the hospital that night, I took a hot shower, put on my pajamas and sat on that bathroom floor and wept. For being a pickle and an alcoholic/drug addict pissing his life away. But most of all for so many more chances and the possibility for so many more Christmases. I wept for finally hitting my bottom…and realizing it!

Later, laying in bed, I pulled on my headphones and listened to gregorian Christmas chants on the radio and fell asleep, peacefully for the first time in many, many years. I knew things would get better, because I had finally accepted my place as a pickle!

And when I look back now, I’ve encountered so many pickle ladies who have helped me along the way during my journey. God bless those pickle jar ladies!!! God bless them for helping me to recognize and appreciate what has so beautifully been given to me.

Because we’re on borrowed time as it is…

The Hawk Walk…

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(While I almost NEVER do this…I thought I would just cross post this one from raannt to make sure that all of my readers saw it…)

Ok folks, this one is dear to my heart…and it is very serious to the boys of raannt, who would most likely not even be here if it weren’t for second, third and fourth chances. Teenage addiction is one of the leading and deadliest diseases in the United States. As a person in recovery from addiction and having worked for years and years with those affected by addiction, the 24 Group Inc. is a foundation I stand behind completely, especially since I have the honor of knowing almost all of those involved since the beginning.

On Saturday, October 17th, from 9am-12pm, The 24 Group Hawk Walk…First Steps to Recovery will begin at Carmel Civic Square Gazebo. In their own words, “Please join us for this years fourth annual “Hawk Walk..First Steps to recovery”. This important fundraiser is to provide recovery support for adolescents suffering from the disease of addiction. All of the proceeds from this walk go to support adolescents in treatment for substance abuse, funds that are not available elsewhere.

“The walk is a 5K family fun walk, starting from and returning to the Gazebo in front of the city building in Carmel Indiana, we walk to celebrate Recovery along the Monon Trail on a beautiful October fall morning.

Before the walk you will have an opportunity to hear some interesting speakers and to visit our exhibitors for information on addiction, addiction treatment, and life in recovery.

Please consider forming a “Walk Team” this year ask three of your friends to walk with you or to support your walk. In this way each walk team will raise $80 in support of our effort…about the cost of one day in supportive living for an adolescent or young adult in early recovery.
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There is little or no coverage for substance use treatment form traditional health insurance, please help us stand in the gap for those suffering from addiction.

We need your support this year more than ever, please get involved, take a few hours out of your hectic life, walk with us on this beautiful fall morning along the tree lined Monon Trail, and give to support a young life in recovery!!

We can tell you on this morning in October, you will experience something that is life changing…for you, and for a young person struggling with substance use. Please walk with us.”

While the boys of raannt are often misconstrued as partying, absent minded characters without focus and care for others, the reality is much of our life and the people we know, is surrounded by those affected by addiction. While only one half of us is personally, biologically affected by addiction, both of us live around recovery every day and believe that all addicts and alcoholics deserve the chance for sobriety. After 15 years of my own sobriety, as well as being able to develop a relationship with my mother who was also in recovery, I believe teenagers often get lost or left behind. The boys of raannt have made it our mission to bring social awareness to Indy and to improve the social quality of our great city, but that doesn’t mean that we turn a blind eye to those who have a chance to turn their lives around.

Please join all of those involved with the Hawk Walk, or if you can’t attend, please visit The 24 Group website, read their story and mission, and consider making a small donation…And like us, don’t let your friends drink and drive, always make sure they make it home safe, confront dangerous drug use and be enough of a friend to bring awareness to those you feel have a problem.

And if you are still concerned, contact a substance abuse professional.

Eyes Open…We’re Watching!