Is My Kid Using Drugs or Drinking Alcohol? Help for Parents

Here are a few items that can reduce your anxiety if you are worried that your kid may use or is using alcohol or illegal substances.

If you attend to the media, you may think that all kids are using, and that they will all end up with a serious addiction. The statistics on teen substance use do not say that. Most kids experiment, a sizable portion are drinking or drugging periodically, but the addicted kids are a small minority.

Teens are prone to substance use because of curiosity, cultural influences, and impulsivity. Because their brain is developing quickly, it can quickly develop into a lifelong problem.

Be preventative. Spend time with your kids. For example, recent research states that having dinner and doing homework with kids is predictor of kids not using substances. Spend non-structured time, and listen. Everyone wants to tell their story, given they have a person willing to listen without nagging, advice-giving and lecturing.

Is your kid at risk? The three biggest risk factors for teen substance use are trauma, divorce and mental illness. In these cases, professional assistance is highly recommended.

Assess your kids. An easy barometer is acceptable grades, participation in chores, social interests with peers, respect of the parents, and are they involved with substances. Although I believe it should be optional for teens, involvement in spirituality can be very powerful for teen development.

Don’t panic! Despite what others think, teens deeply need us more in this stage of their life. They are facing more challenges than any previous generation. Most kids need grounded, well adjusted parents to make it safely to adulthood. Best thing for an anxious parent is to address their own anxiety, before unknowingly making the kid responsible for that parental anxiety. For example, I have worked with many parents that grew up poor, overindulged their kids, and severely regretted it later.

And how not to panic! Get a consult and do not work alone! A family session with parents with a Certified Addictions Professional that works with teens (see resources at the end of this post) can really alleviate some of the anxiety. Other parents, extended family, church and  school resources can be of invaluable assistance. Often parents find value for themselves to see a therapist. Understanding substance use and our own reactions to our kids is paramount to effective parenting in the substance use issue. Some parents will find NarAnon or AlAnon (see resources,) family support groups, very useful and comforting.

Check your own judgements at the door. The most important development task of a teen is freedom. They are supposed to push against us and take risks. Humans are healthy when they do not accept only one view, and when they take risks. Our biggest responsibility is to love our kids and help them become self-sufficient. Can we love them when they make mistakes? The challenge for parents is to recognize teen development, allow for freedom, growth and risks, and help them keep themselves safe.

Understand substance use. Often parents do not understand substance abuse, and make snap judgements and consequences. Kids are caught in a dilemma of feeling good by using with friends, and parents who send the message that using substances is horrible. Human beings are wired to seek to feel good and to avoid feeling bad. Substance use is often just a symptom of other emotional challenges.

Know signs and symptoms of using behavior. The simple ones are secrecy, isolation, change in friends and interests and unexplained mood swings or bizarre behavior. Know signs and symptoms of drugs of abuse (see NIHDrugsofAbuse .)

Keep your kid safe. The silver lining to finding out your kid is using is that you have an opportunity to remove driving  privileges. You will sleep better at night. You have the right to forbid your child from being with a drug user. Secretly your kid could be relieved that someone drew a line in the sand.

Don’t be scared of drug screens. Not only do we use screens to detect drug use, but they help your teen. Many people do not use because they know they have a screen awaiting them (see resources for Drug Screens.)

Don’t be scared of treatment. Most therapists recommend starting with the lowest level of care which is outpatient counseling. The addictions therapist can recommend the best level of care for your kid. The next levels of care are intensive outpatient and residential treatment. Sometimes kids need residential treatment because they can not extract themselves from their using friends.

Resources (short list for Polk County Florida!)

Addiction therapists:

Joe Martin, LMHC, CAP, 863-808-7416

Andy Quinn, LMHC, CAP, 863-683-9600

Rhett Brandt, Ph.D.,863-606-5922

Intensive Outpatient:

Lifecare of Lakeland,  Donna St. Rock, 863-937-9659


Dr. Curtis Cassidy 863-686-0800, late teens only

Dr. Chris Davenport, 863-646-9600, late teens only

Dr Mark Helm, 863-683-2600

Dr. Karen Teston, 863-647-8043

Drug Screens:

Target drug testing: 863-701-0777

Quest diagnostics: 866-697-8378

Polk county drug court: 863-534-4612

Self help groups:

AlAnon 863-687-3800

NarAnon 1-888-947-8885

Lovingkindness Meditation Residential Retreat: Friday December 8, 2017 – Sunday December 10, 2017

                                         Loving Oneself and Others                                                    

Lovingkindness Meditation Residential Retreat

730 PM Friday December 8, 2017- Noon Sunday December 10,2017

Saint Leo Abbey, 33601 State Road 52, Saint Leo, Florida 33574

Hosted by Heartland Insight Meditation Group

Saint Leo Abbey will provide a peaceful setting for a weekend of meditation.  Participants will enjoy:

  • Teachings that reverse anger and hatred and bring about compassion for self and others, sympathetic joy and equanimity, with time for questions and answers.
  • Sitting and walking meditation for beginning and experienced meditators.
  • Beautiful outside grounds for walking meditation or contemplation
  • 6 hearty meals provided by the staff at St Leo Abbey.
  • Cost is $205, plus donation to the teacher.


Course taught by Peter Carlson

Peter has practiced meditation for more than thirty years and taught Vipassana (Insight) Meditation for more than twenty years. He is the founder of Orlando Insight Meditation Group. His training includes three-month courses at the Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Barre, MA.      


To register: contact Andy Quinn, 863-683-9600


Refund Policy: Cancel greater than one month prior: Full refund

Cancel greater than one week prior:: 50% refund

Cancel less than one week prior to the retreat: no refund





Drugs, Alcohol, Sex- We Can Do Plenty About Addictions. Seminar Saturday January 9, 2016

shutterstock_54830533Are you feeling out of control, anxious, angry, sad and helpless about someone’s compulsive behavior? Are you baffled that despite all evidence they have a debilitating or embarrassing condition, your loved one continues to harm themselves?

Or perhaps despite your best efforts and intentions, you keep going back to behaviors that do not meet your values, do not reflect the best you? Is what you are doing baffling you, and interfering with being a successful and whole human being?

You can help yourself and your loved one with a few simple techniques. Learn to give yourself a chance at happiness by attending this important and worthwhile seminar.

What: A three hour seminar that addresses compulsive behavior such as drugs and alcohol, sex, work, shopping and gambling.  You can expect safety and an emphasis on confidentiality. The leader, Andy Quinn,  has been working with families with compulsions for 25 years.

Who: All family members and/or those struggling with compulsion are welcome. Trust that you will not have to self-disclose or even state why you are present for the seminar.

When and Where: 8AM- 11AM, Saturday January 9, 2015. The building is 215 East Bay St., Suite 5, Lakeland, FL 33801.

What to expect:  Teaching includes

  • The truth about addictions and compulsions
  • What the recent science says about what works to help people recover from addiction
  • How to get help for yourself or your family member who has an addiction or compulsion
  • How to find a reputable treatment program
  • Plenty of question and answer time

How to Register: The seminar cost $50. Space is limited so RSVP soon. Call/text  Andy 863-683-9600 or email


Help for Families of Addicts, Part I

Andy Quinn 2014Just the word “addict” makes us cringe! Then to think that our child or husband may be an addict is certainly unsettling, even devastating. Despite our best efforts at convincing, controlling and cajoling the addict to quit they keep on. And despite all the tragic events and difficulties they just keep on. Truly we are baffled and most of us in the helping professions have been confused and frustrated by trying to help these people.

So what can you do? I tell folks  that if you are going to cure addiction you have to understand the addict. There are a lot of myths about addiction, that if held onto, can actually can contribute to the problem. Even mental health professionals are still working  on outdated models of assisting families and their loved ones. The culture that we live in devalues asking for assistance,  the idea of helping one another.. Having addiction in the family can cause family members to feel shame. These dynamics can cause families to isolate and control, desperately trying to help in ineffective ways. This can lead to increased shame and more acting out by not just the addict but by family members themselves. So misguided, misinformed methods make things worse!

Most of us are going  to be traumatized by the substance using of our loved one. Susan Johnson, an attachment theorist that developed Emotional Focus Therapy, defined trauma  as a psychological wound that leaves us feeling helpless and hopeless. This is how spouses and parents of addicts often feel. When human beings are traumatized, physically, emotionally,  mentally, the mind contracts to a form of tunnel vision. Our assessment of the situation is inaccurate and our reaction is off the mark. We will spin  into anxiety  and shame and become controlling and reactive. We are often  reliving  some of the same trauma from our childhood. I would not trust such a mind for solid decision making.

Lenora gardener

This sense of losing  everything important, the trauma, reinforces a need to isolate. The isolation will reinforce, make stronger the anxiety around having substance abuse in the family. Our American culture values “being strong,” and devalues being vulnerable. Paradoxically what we are typically running from is fear…..”what will people say? (when they find out my son is an addict)”  or “what does it feel like to me to have no control?” So in a round about way it takes courage to face the pain, and relief that I do not have  to have all the answers.

Working with professionals and support groups like Al Anon leads to the most important part of helping the addict….getting help for yourself. Research consistently confirms that people are happier when they have loving relationships and talk about their problems. So getting help for yourself stabilizes the mind. Once the mind is stable, it can become more malleable, flexible to entertain new concepts about the nature of addiction. The open mind will also become more intuitive about how to help my particular addict. This openness can also be conducive to loving our addict, a powerful force in getting better.

We learn to soften toward the addict when we understand that their destructive behavior has to do with impaired neurological functioning, that may have been genetic or due to childhood experiences. Family members learn that their loved one is not of sound mind, their mind so impaired that they can not control their use. Families can learn that the addicted person is suffering, and deserves compassion like we all do. So the first step in getting help for our addict is to begin the process of understanding, forgiving and loving our addict.

by Andy Quinn

Are you alcohol dependent?

Take this 20 question test to help you decide whether or not you are an alcoholic.

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Recovery from Addictions and Substance Abuse

Andy and Susan offer a variety of services to assist recovery from addictions and substance abuse. We are most concerned with making addicts and their family feel safe from judgment or shame. We can evaluate and treat the person with the addiction, or we can meet with family to intervene with the addiction. We partner with the addict or their family, developing a treatment plan to meet their needs. We offer Individual, Relational, and Family Therapy. Groups are typically the most effective modality for addictions treatment. We offer an Adult Substance Abuse Group, and a Sexual Compulsion Group. We are able to do drug screening. We can coach people on attending Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or Sex and Love Addicts Anoymous (SLAA). We know that people can and do take their lives back from the domination of drugs, alcohol and sex compulsions.


Don’t let addiction rob you of the health and happiness you deserve!

Take back your life! Every compulsive behavior, from drugs and alcohol to work and sex to focusing on others and overeating, has it’s roots in unmanageable emotion, disconnection from safety, love and intimacy. We can help. While recovery must happen in relationship with other people, it is possible to begin in one-on-one counseling with a compassionate, trained professional.