This is a guest post by Elizabeth Garrison.
I have a Doctorate in clinical psychology which means I’ve spent thousands of hours conducting therapy with children and their families.
Many of them were in treatment centers for kids struggling with chemical dependency issues. In nearly all of the cases that involved a child abusing drugs and/or alcohol, I was presented with the parents’ agonizing frustration over not being able to understand why their child was doing what they were doing.
It’s utterly baffling to watch a child destroy themselves with chemicals when all they have to do to end the destruction is stop using chemicals. Their behavior seems incomprehensible to the people closest to them.
I can’t count the number of times I heard a parent express, “I just wish I knew what was going on inside their head.” Well, I think I can finally allow them to do just that.
I invite you behind the closed doors of a picture-perfect Christian family to reveal a dark, hidden world of child abuse, domestic violence, and chilling family secrets all performed in the name of God under the tyrannical rule of my father.
Like so many other teenagers, I turned to drugs to escape the dark realities and real-life horrors of teenage drug abuse, living on the streets, foster homes, and treatment centers. I scratched and clawed my way out and found the strength within myself to save my life.
I believe in the power of truth-telling and science supports this assertion. Much of my research has focused on using writing as a way of healing and there’s no doubt within the world of psychology that writing is a helpful tool of recovery.
It was my intent to help other teenage girls by telling my story so that they might identify with someone who had shared a similar experience. I wanted them to find comfort by realizing that they weren’t alone in their struggles.
Most importantly, I wanted to show them that their life wasn’t over simply because they might have wasted away their adolescence.
By the time I was 18 years old, I was looking at doing prison time, I’d never gotten past eighth grade, doctors had labeled me with all sorts of illnesses that said I could never learn, and society had washed their hands of me.
But, I overcame and today I have a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and work at the largest trauma research center in the nation. I want other teenage girls to know that no matter what kind of a beginning they’ve had, they can have an amazing finish.
There is no greater heartbreak than being the parent of a child who is struggling with chemical dependency issues. Watching your child hurt themselves again and again without having any idea why or how to fix it is devastating.
My son recently turned six and I am terrified of having him follow in my footsteps.
To the outside world, I was an angry, defiant, willful, teenage girl intent on destroying herself and unwilling to let other people help her. Yet, on the inside, I was a scared, sad, lonely, and confused teenage girl who just wanted someone to love me and help me.
Chances are your son or daughter is living a contradictory existence as well. The person you are seeing on the outside is most likely not what they are experiencing on the inside even if they might not be aware of it.
They are probably just as frightened over the powerlessness in their life as you are even though they won’t admit it.
And one of the things I can promise you is that no matter how hardened they might appear to you and how much they might push you away, they want you to love them. They don’t understand their own actions any more than you understand their actions.
I recently released my memoir, Wounds of the Father: A True Story of Child Abuse, Betrayal, and Redemption, which tells the story of my fractured childhood, descent into teenage drug addiction, and struggle to overcome nearly insurmountable odds.
At first glance, my book appears as if it is targeted towards the addicted person. This is true to a certain extent.
I wrote my book to heal myself and to help others heal themselves. I also wrote my book for another group—you—the parents of a child who is struggling with chemical dependency issues.
It is my sincere desire that by reading my story, you will be able to understand what your son or daughter is going through a little better.
It might offer you insight into the brain of an addict in a way that will help you to better understand your own child.
Lastly, it might offer you some hope–hope that your child doesn’t have to become a statistic and that your child can make it through even though things might not look promising right now.
Your child doesn’t have to die and anyone can turn their life around.
I’ve seen it in my own life and I’ve seen it in countless others who were at one time just like me.
Elizabeth Garrison has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and works as a researcher for the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. Her research focuses on the effects of childhood abuse and developing interventions to help children recover. She also is a well-known celebrity ghost-writer. Given her talent in helping others to tell their stories, Garrison decided it was time to tell her own story. You can purchase her book, Wounds of the Father: A True Story of Child Abuse, Betrayal, and Redemption, here:
Visit her at www.elizabethgarrison.info.
What do you think? How can we prevent young women from going down the road of substance use? What can we do to encourage their recovery? How can we inspire them to be their best selves? Please leave your comments and questions below.