It’s one of the biggest threats facing American youth today, all too often hiding in plain sight.
And for millions of parents across the nation, navigating their children through the complex journey of substance abuse has become a frightening reality.
Maria Appelzoller’s son has battled an alcohol addiction for over a decade. When it became overwhelming, she started to search for ways to cope, which led her to hold weekly weekly support meetings in round rock called PAL or parents of addicted loved ones.
“I was afraid that one day I would be driving through the city and see a homeless face, and realize that it was my son.” She says.
“My son was at the end of his rope, and I felt that I needed help as well.”
Although alcohol addiction is still among the most common, over the past decade the face of addiction has transformed dramatically, and the types of substances that have infiltrated high school hallways and adolescent blood streams across the country have changed as well.
“A lot of kids these days get started by just going through their parents medicine cabinet.” Says Stacy Woodall, the outpatient manager at Cenikor Core Counseling Center in Waco, a facility that helps recovering addicts.
Nationwide, the number of young people abusing painkillers, Adderall and Ritalin has more than doubled in the past decade, but other types of drugs have also found their way into mainstream drug use.
“Another big problem is Benzos which is Valium, Xanex, those types of things, Says Woodall.
For parents, like Maria, who find their children tangled in the suffocating web of addiction, the struggle to find answers can be incredibly painful.
“You go through a lot of guilt, you go through a lot of shame and self blame.”
Recognizing substance abuse before it’s too late can be difficult, especially among kids in their teens and twenties who often learn to hide their condition.
“Its very important that you work to know your child and their typical behaviors.” Woodall advises.
One of the biggest problem time frames is the period between high school and college, as peer pressure and exposure to different vices becomes more accessible.
“Its that first six weeks that establish if you're going to be drinking heavily and abusing drugs or not."
Lilly Ettinger is the program coordinator at Baylor University’s addiction recovery center she seen the problem first hand.
“Addiction is not an issue of moral behavior, it’s a disease just like asthma or diabetes."
Recovery centers and rehab facilities like the one on the Baylor campus are popping up in cities across the country, in order to combat a growing number of patients, and for parents and addicts alike they provide a critical step on the road to recovery.
“You don’t raise your child to be an addict, and it’s very disappointing and very hard to admit to yourself that that’s what they are” says Maria Appelzoller.
Maria says the hardest part of the process for any parent, is learning to deny them things like money, in order to stop enabling the problem.
“You learn it’s okay to say no to your child, because by saying no you are helping them.”
For Maria, her story has a happy ending, her son has now been in rehab for several months, and is working to build a new life. Finally back on the right path, a goal that the millions of other families across the country, who are trying to escape the darkness of addiction dream of as well.
“After about 30 days I could really look at him again, he could focus, I could see his eyes, it was right then that I knew I got my son back."
If you would like to get involved in the parents of addicted loved ones (PAL) meetings you can find a link with information here.