The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on October 27, 1991 · Page 54
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October 27, 1991

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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 54

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Cincinnati, Ohio
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Sunday, October 27, 1991
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E-8Features THE CINCINNATI ENQUIRER Sunday, October 27, 1991 Teen t I was in denial. I just thought he was using (alcohol) socially. I had no idea he'd been drinking since he was 10. 1 am still somewhat in denial. I cannot believe this kid is my kid. J J Valerie One thing is certain: never again will she view teen drinking as somebody else's problem, a phase that kids go through, something far less serious that a so-called real drug problem. "I used to think druggies were scummy little people," she says. "These are not scummy kids. These are kids who are sick. t t I always wanted to get the buzz, wanted to feel good as soon as possible. So I'd just chug down the hard alcohol, shot after shot after shot . . . J JJ Mike shock. I was totally numbed out," she says. Since then, her emotions have been stretched and flung to new degrees. She is outraged at the adults who contributed to her son's problem by buying or giving him booze. She is sickened by society's glamorization of drinking and alcohol. She is grateful that Mike's "bottoming out" wasn't as deep as some of the other teens in treatment those arrested for stealing or driving drunk, referred there by judges as a last resort, those who came in suicidal and deeply depressed, those who became a violent threat to their friends, their families, their parents. She is encouraged because she sees signs of recovery in Mike, hopeful because his progress gives her hope, however slowly. Because alcohol tends to stave emotional growth, she is dealing chronologically with a 17-year-old who has the emotional development of a 10-year-old. Parent CONTINUED FROM PAGE E l long-term drug rehabilitation. She did it, she says literally, to save his life. "I knew that in a year, he would be 18, free and clear and able to move away," she says. If she hadn't intervened, she is sure the warnings of counselors and doctors would have come true he would have ended up in jail. Or dead. But like many parents of teenage drinkers, she saw the signs and attributed them to adolescence. She had suspicions but didn't want to admit they were true. She smelled his breath and believed Mike's protestations that it was mouthwash. When she finally called her doctor for help about Mike's problems, she was more concerned about the burn marks on his arms than the fact that he might be an alcoholic. t C They're highly manipulative. They take parental trust and manipulate it against you, they use it against you, big time. They have a look, a whole attitude problem that you can't pick up on because it gets mixed up with adolescent behavior. J J Valerie "I was in denial. I just thought he was using (alcohol) socially. I had no idea he'd been drinking since he was 10," says Valerie, who is divorced and has custody of Mike. "I am still somewhat in denial. I cannot believe this kid is my kid." But now she knows he is the kid who hid his drinking from her for years and then lied about it blamed his vomiting on eating too many fast-food burgers when she'd ask him if he had come home drunk. The kid who tried to convince social workers, counselors and psychiatrists that he didn't have a problem. Now that she's been involved in counseling with Mike for six months at Kids Helping Kids, Valerie is beginning to understand alcoholics' minds and behaviors -r' and why Mike was able to deceive her. Big manipulators "They're highly manipulative," Valerie says. "They take parental trust and manipulate it against you, Call classified when you want to REACH A CROWD To place your ad, phone 421-6300. Classified Advertising Department The Cincinnati Enquirer O The Cincinnati Post they use it against you, big time. They have a look, a whole attitude problem that you can't pick up on because it gets mixed up with adolescent behavior. "(Alcoholism) is very hard to diagnose because the first symptom is denial, it is a disease of denial. Who would believe that a 10-year-old's problems could be from drinking?" For parents, the problem is compounded because they don't want to be too harsh, they balance their gut instincts with their emotions, they don't want to discipline unnecessarily. Teen drinkers, the masters of denial, figure that out, she says. "Their denial is such that they really believe the lies they're telling," she explains. "Their denial is such that they divert attention on everything but themselves. Their denial is such that they reconstruct their own little world, and it's not real. They can sit in a square room and try to convince you that it's not square, that's it's triangular. And they really believe it is." A web of lies For Valerie, the breaking point came when she caught Mike in his lies when he insisted he had been at work one Friday night, even though she had visited the fast-food restaurant by surprise and learned he had taken the night off to attend a concert. Four times he lied to her face about where he had been, she says. "That was it for me," she remembers. "I stomped into his bedroom and I said, 'I'm sick of you. I'm sick of your behavior. You're making me sick, and I'm not going to take it any more.' " That's when she decided to enter him in Kids Helping Kids. As the truth has slowly emerged, Valerie has been both shocked and encouraged. Shocked because she knew only part of her son's behaviors and thoughts from the time he was 10 until he was 17. Part of Mike's rehabilitation is keeping a daily moral inventory a journal for writing (and confessing) about past behaviors and thoughts. The first few times Valerie read the diary, she had never heard most of it and believed only half. "It's like a death, like you're in Table EMBROIDERY FLOSS '; tit IILIJE LIMIT 20 I I SKEWS WIS CUSIUBtil l tP EXPIRES r-i. n291 3" thru 12" ROUND "f EMBROIDERY HOOPS i SI liSTOHil 5 EXPIRES I I129I t LACE ' ' I TRANS-WEB "'j X a m TRANSFER S ! S WEB ft f I wo. $1! LIMIT km ? 20 YDS. EXPIRES ' 16 WIDE lr. 119(11 .v di Imodium io OTwioiseoumi I mn BRANDEIS used $5 Opening Day donation, FREE Thurs. - Sun. 791 9956 Sale Days 12-8 10"8 108 10"4 10'4 MONTGOMERY BUSINESS CUIB 2 blocks west of Montgomery Rd. betweenCooper & Remington CONTINUED FROM PAGE E l Another time, he burned the skin with a cigarette lighter. He's been in treatment since April, forced by his mother. For the first time in seven years, he's talking about what it's like to have feelings again. Because when he was drinking, he concedes, the only thing he felt was anger. Anger and hatred. He remembers liking hard liquor best: 80- or 100-proof anything, whatever he could get his hands on. Maybe not every day, but whenever he could get away with it from fourth grade on. "There were times when I'd tell myself I was going to quit, but I just couldn't." In seventh grade, he etched the name of a rock band into his arm with a compass needle. He once pulled a knife against the throat of a cousin. "The first time I really got drunk I threw up, and I thought that was normal. I thought passing out was a normal part of drinking," he says. "I didn't feel liked by the other kids. By ninth grade, I was a real hellion in school. I was always ready to fight physically." That's when he found a girlfriend, "and she was the only important thing to me. Even wasn't important to me. She wanted me to stop drinking, but I couldn't do it." He'd drink alone at home, sometimes a full fifth at a time. He'd drink before Oak Hills High School football games. He'd drink at parties "with jocks, preppies and hoods." He drank when he started working at a fast-food restaurant. By age 16, he also began using other drugs marijuana, codeine, hash oil, speed. "I had access to every drug available, except heroin and ice," he says nonchalantly, as if it's something he assumed every adult knew. But alcohol remained his favorite. t I drove one night so drunk I never even took the car out of second gear I was headed for death or jail real quick. J J Mike "I always wanted to get the buzz, wanted to feel good as soon as possible. So I'd just chug down the hard alcohol, shot after shot after shot ..." he says, he voice trailing off. He'd come home drunk and head for the bathroom. When his mother asked if he'd been drinking, he'd offer the breath test: "She'd smell my breath and I'd tell her it was mouthwash, and she'd believe me." Spiraling down Mike dropped out of school at age 16 "because I didn't care about anything anymore. It got to the point where I was drinking a fifth of alcohol at night by myself. I'd drink in my room or out in the woods. There were plenty of stores all over where I could buy it." And if he didn't buy it, he'd steal it. Or a friend would buy it. Or an adult would buy it and give it to him. Availability was never a problem. Breaking up with his girlfriend in late 1990 sent him into the downward spiral that finally got the attention of his counselors and his mother. Despondent about the breakup, he burned his arm 22 times with a cigarette lighter. He'd drink all day and stay up all night. His mother had him hospitalized three days after Christmas, 1990, for depression and suicidal tendencies. Three weeks in January at Emerson North Hospital's chemical dependencypsychiatric unit kept him sober for a week. It also used up his health-insurance allotment for treatment for all of 1991. After his release, he began experimenting with alcohol again, first one drink every few days. Then every day. Then a couple of drinks a day, Eventually he began using alcohol and other drugs heavily. "I drove one night so drunk I never even took the car out of second gear," he says. Friends told him he almost smashed the car into For the latest in fashion, read MARY BETH CROCKER in Tempo BEE FELICE CAFE "The best new Orleans food In town" Qreat Steaks-Fresh Seafood Live Entertainment Lunch, Dinner and Happy Hour 329 Main Street, Covington, Ky. I stomped into n D his bedroom and I said, 'I'm sick of you. I'm sick of your behavior. You're making me sick, and I'm not going to take it any more.' J J Valerie "When you catch on to what it is, you can really change things. And parents have to face up to the problem. They have to be willing to take responsibility and admit that they screwed up some things. The whole cornerstone of getting well is honesty. This kid is the one with the disease that has a medical progression, but it's not just the kid. You've also got to change the family system and re-educate yourself." x Color Portraits extra Make Your Furniture Look New With These Great Savings!! UNLIMITED SELECTION 25 OFF on custom order upholstery Fabric & Labor 1 Special Sale 50 off Mini Blinds 50 off Pleated Shades 50 off Verticals 25 off Custom Top Treatments . rr' And Twice The Fun! Bring a JHend and Jump into savings now at Clamour Shots . a telephone pole, but he doesn't remember. "I was headed for death or jail real quick." Getting help He also doesn't remember the day in April that his mother checked him into Kids Helping Kids. He'd been out the night before, almost in a coma-like trance from alcohol, speed, pot, more alcohol. "I was so burnt from the night before that I didn't even know what was happening to me for the first two or three days," he says now. "If I had known, I probably would have taken off." But he hasn't. He's in the fourth of the program's five phases. He is learning to be honest with himself. He's undergoing counseling. He knows the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and its Serenity Prayer by heart. He's counseling incoming teens, helping them see through their own lies. But he's still afraid. "I'm really scared about what'll happen when I get out," he says. He knows there'll be temptations everywhere he turns old friends, his old girlfriends, billboards and TV advertisements that glamorize booze. "I don't have just the pressure of a normal kid. I have the pressure of wondering if I'm going to die or not (if I start using again)," he says. A way out So far, he's sticking with the program. One day at a time. He's beginning to understand himself. He knows that no one will every truly understand, unless they've been there, too. "The sober mind can never ever begin to understand the druggie way of thinking. I'm sober, but I'm still thinking like a druggie. Even now, when I see things not chained down, I think, 'That would be real easy to steal.' 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