Monday, September 30, 2013

Not Everyone Trapped by Alcohol is an Alcoholic

"There are many trials in life that one must go through, and everybody deals with these problems differently. Some write. Some fight. Everyone in my family seemed to drown their problems in alcohol. As a six-year-old, I didn’t see the problems that my family faced. The world was big and full of wonder in the eyes of a curious little boy, but having alcoholic parents made my world a lot smaller. I couldn’t put into words how scared I was. I learned quickly to figure out what my parents were thinking and feeling. I needed to know if I was coming home to the warm, loving place that a home should be, or to a war zone where people were afraid to speak their feelings. At some point, my parents thought it would be a good idea for my mother to leave. During this time, my mom and my dad jumped in and out of sobriety. One time my dad left on a Friday night, leaving me and my friend at home. When he didn’t come home, we went to my friend’s house. My dad picked me up hung over. He said he wanted to change. I saw my mother after that, and she was sober. She brought up Alateen. I told her I would give it a try. I told my dad that I wanted to go, and he decided to go to A.A. We began the journey to recovery together. I remember my first meeting pretty well, though it feels like it happened ages ago. There were a lot of older kids, and all were complete strangers. I was trying to find a dark corner to hide in when an 18-year-old girl came up to me and kneeled down so we were eye level. With a soothing voice and a loving smile, she asked me, “Are you nervous?” I hesitantly nodded yes. She grabbed my trembling shoulders, shook them with great excitement, and screamed, “Don’t be nervous!” I jumped. Everyone laughed and gave me a hug. At that moment, all the fear and tension I had in my heart was lifted. For some reason, that was the most loved I had felt in years. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling and laughing along with the rest of the group. I was truly happy for the first time in years. During that first meeting I shared and I cried. It felt so good—like walking on air. I went for years without missing a meeting. I think about what my life would be like if I had never gone to that first Alateen meeting. I could have hurt myself or someone else. I could have ended up in jail or maybe become an alcoholic. When I picture the alternate world I could have possibly made for myself, I feel blessed that my Higher Power cared about me enough to lead me into the program.Alateen didn’t “fix” me or make me perfect. It showed me where to put things in my life so I could love the finished product. I learned that life is worth living. Being happy is when I look at the cards that God has dealt to me, relax, and smile. I may not have been dealt the best hand, but I don’t have the worst."By Jerem
Having someone you love battle with alcoholism can leave you helpless and feeling alone. Alateen is a great place where you can find support from people your own age going through very similar difficulties.
Also, if you are a teen looking for someone your own age to talk to, Teen Link is pretty awesome too. It is a safe place where teens can call and talk about whatever if going on for them without worrying about someone judging them or telling anyone else their business. It is answered by teens who are there to listen. You can call or chat online. The number is 1866-833-6546 and the website, where you can access chat, is 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Can Self-Harm Be Considered an Addiction?

When most people think of the term 'addiction', what comes to mind is generally related to drugs or alcohol, but certainly not self-harm. The official definition of addiction is a compulsive drug craving and use, despite adverse consequences. Though this definition mentions drugs specifically, I believe self-harm can be considered an addiction, as they both share many of the same qualities. Some of these qualities include:

1. Emotional Triggers- Before actually trying drugs or alcohol or attempting self-harm, a significant event, or series of events, may occur, evoking a strong emotional response. Though this may not always be as true for drugs or alcohol, I believe this is often true for self-harm. Self-harm generally involves a build up of stressful events; a person doesn't merely wake up one day and decide to begin harming themselves. While there may be a build up of certain stressful events, there is usually one particular pivotal event that drives a person past of what they feel they can handle, which leads them to try out self-harming.

2. Tolerance- After a person begins self harming or using, a form of tolerance may develop. When relating to drugs or alcohol, the official definition of tolerance is a diminishing effect with regular use of the same dose of a drug, requiring the user to take larger and larger doses before experiencing the drug's effect. This can also apply to self-harm. After self-harming, people may incorporate this behavior into their coping mechanisms. As stressful events continue to arise, they may continually and increasingly turn to self-harm as their way of relief or escape. Soon the person may find that self-harming once a week is not enough to receive the same amount of relief, so they decide to increase their frequency and intensity of self-harm. This escalation of use aligns with definition of tolerance.

3. Dependence- In relation to addiction, there are two forms of dependence; physical and psychological. Physical dependence can be defined as a physiological need for a drug, marked by unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when the drug is discontinued. Psychological dependence on the other hand, can be defined as a psychological or mental need to use a drug to relieve negative emotions. In regards to self-harm, physical dependence comes from a chemical called dopamine that is released in our brains when we are hurt. For some people this release of dopamine can have a soothing affect. However, just like with any other chemical, our bodies can get accustomed to this release of dopamine and might develop a higher tolerance. This means that the body might need to experience a higher degree of damage or pain to get the same soothing affect. When a person has gotten to this point, they also may experience symptoms of withdrawal that manifest through anxiety. Psychological dependence, also stems off of tolerance. In the tolerance phase, people who self-harm may still have other coping methods they can use as alternatives to self-harm. However, once a person who self-harms reaches psychological dependence, self-harm becomes their primary way to relieve stress or pain and other methods of coping may become secondary. A person might feel like they need self harm to keep going or to avoid this anxiety. 

4. Denial- In some addictions, not all, but some, there is comes a point of denial. This may be denial within the user's self or with another person. Denial may be defined as the outright refusal that something has occurred or is occurring. Often when dealing with addictions, people will deny they have an addiction and claim that they don't have a problem or could stop anytime. Denial can occur for a variety of reasons, whether it be in relation to alcohol, drugs, or self-harm. These reasons of denial may include not wanting to appear weak; not wanting to lose their pride, either in the user's own eyes or in the eyes of their friends and family; not wanting to lose their outlet for stress or anxiety; or simply because they don't want help or don't recognize they have a problem.

5. Withdrawal- Though withdrawal is certainly more related to substances, in some way it can relate to self- harm. Withdrawal can be defined as the discomfort and distress that follow discontinuing the use of an addictive drug. As the definition states, there is discomfort and distress which follow the addictive behaviors. After stopping self-harm, some degree of withdrawal may ensue. Like others trying to recover from an addiction, those who have previously self-harmed may feel the urge to self-harm because it was once their primary coping mechanism. Withdrawal really depends on the severity of the addiction with drugs, alcohol, and self-harm. If the addiction is severe, the person trying to recover may even feel lost. Self-harm, drugs, or alcohol often become a big part of people's identities. Therefore, once they have stopped or are trying to stop, they not only struggle with the urges to continue their use to cope, but they also may need to rediscover who they are outside of their addiction.

Addiction is different for everyone. When recovering, some may need extensive therapy or medication. Others may be able to overcome their addiction on their own when they find a substantial incentive or helpful support system. When experiencing addiction, too many people believe there is no way out and life will simply never get better- "this is just how it's going to be and this is who I am now." But the truth is, addiction doesn't define you as a person. Addiction doesn't make you the person you are. You are more than your addiction. You might be funny, opinionated, quiet, outgoing, loud, excitable, adventurous, and so much more; but you are not simply and only an "addict."

If you are experiencing an addiction or hoping to go into recovery, it is important to keep in mind that circumstances can change. You are not your addiction, there are so many more amazing qualities that you have that people want to know about!

Also, be patient and gentle with yourself. Our addictions are there for a reason. They may have been, or still are, serving a purpose for us. Don't underestimate this purpose and don't discount your own strength in finding a way to cope. Dealing with life is hard and we all find our own ways to do it.

Here are some additional links for addiction and self-harm if you feel that you need help, but may not know where to look:

Teen Link: -Chat is available Mon., Tues., and Thurs. from 6PM to 10PM (PST)
 1-866-TEENLINK (866-833-6546) -Available from 6PM to 10PM daily (PST)
Washington State Recovery Helpline:
1-866-789-1511 -available 24 hours a day
NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse for teens):
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration: -Resource for youth dealing with a variety of issues, such as addiction, anxiety, depression, suicide, eating disorders, self-harm, grief, relationships, school pressures, etc.
Self Injury Outreach and Support:
SAFE Alternatives: -An organization working to help end self-harm

Friday, September 20, 2013

Internet Addiction: When It Becomes a Problem and How to Fix It

Most teenagers have at least one thing that associates them with the internet (besides using it for school). There are so many ways that the internet can appeal to anyone: online gaming sites, social networking sites, blogging sites, etc. It is absolutely fine to spend leisure time on the internet. It can be a good (and fun) way to connect with friends, release stress, and share your thoughts, art, photos, etc. However, as the amount of time spent online increases to an amount that starts to interfere with other activities, it can become a burdening and inconvenient addiction.

Symptoms that internet addiction is becoming a problem:
  • Constantly thinking about the internet -Thinking about being online, and often looking forward to logging onto online accounts.
  • Cancelling plans to do other activities, such as spending time with friends, school opportunities, extra-curricular activities, etc. to spend more time online.
  • Spending more time online than is necessary - Staying online longer than originally planned, or just staying online for so long that the user hasn't moved, eaten, or talked for hours. For example, the user might tell themselves that they will only spend 1 hour, but then that turns into 2 hours, then 3...
  • Feeling anxious when offline, and happy and relaxed when online.
  • Realizing that internet addiction has begun - If the user complains about tired, dry eyes, soreness from sitting in one position for so long, and a feeling of wanting to get off the internet but not being able to, or wanting to stop, then it is likely that they have internet addiction. This symptom is actually rather positive, because it is the first step in decreasing internet usage time, and thus, stopping the addiction!

Now, a few tips on slowing down and eventually stopping internet addiction:
  • Get busy! - Start getting involved in things that keep you out of the house, or even just off the computer! Teach yourself to play an instrument, collect pieces of junk around your eyes and make an art project out of it, join a school sport, or continue pursuing a hobby that you already love!
  • Procrastinate getting on the computer - Once you turn on the computer and get online, you will have a hard time getting off. If you don't get on in the first place, its much easier to stay off. Everyday (or maybe even every week), try to have a plan to "procrastinate" for 15 minutes longer than you did the day (or week) before. 
  • Give your passwords to a trusted friend/family member.
The process can be very slow and frustrating, and it may get boring when you aren't in the mood to do anything but go on the internet. However, once you start to move away from constantly being online, and start to do other things that you enjoy, you will feel like a fresh, new person!


Teen Link is an anonymous and non-judgemental Teen helpline. Call or chat online (Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays) from 6pm-10pm at 1-866-TEENLINK.

Sunday, September 15, 2013


"What one relationship do you want to work on this semester, and what concrete steps will you take to do so?"

This is the only question on my psychology homework.  I have no clue how to answer; I hope by writing this out I can help myself figure it out, and maybe somebody else too.

The first part is really not that hard.  I just need to look at my life and find relationships that I wish were better.  I could say my parents, my brother, a friend, or even that girl I've been wanting to ask out for the past month.  I'm sure we all look around, and see relationships that are sub-par.

However, my trouble comes with the second part: "What steps will you take to [work on it]?"
I look at all these relationships and see factors that are out of my control, or faults of other people.  I am having a hard time finding just one relationship where I am at fault for the problems.

I feel like I do my best to be a good son to my parents, and show support for what I do, but I just wish they would pull back a bit, and let me be my own person (I mean, I am 18 now).  What can I do to improve my relationship with my parents?  I don't really know.

I have not been getting along with my brother as well recently, but the only problem I can see is him pulling away and being less agreeable.

(I could repeat this for every relationship in my life, but I think I'll save you the reading for now.)

I think this illustrates an important part of who many people are: we are quick to find fault in others, but cannot find fault in ourselves.  I could say "I want to improve my relationship with my best friend," but I can't figure out what explicit steps I can take to do so.

I guess to wrap things up for now, I have not really solved anything.  I mostly just ranted at the screen for the past 350 words.  If this actually gets published, or if I come back with a solution later, I hope it is helpful to at least one reader in the future.

~Anonymous Teen

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

"Someone else's shoes"

I've always felt like the whole concept of "being in someone else’s shoes,"
was so fake and impossible to do. I've always thought that,
we all blindly pretend we know who someone else is, how they think,
what they mean when they do something.
We imagine that somehow we know them.
We act like we can know someone else's mind better than they do.
We know what makes them similar to us, different from us.
And we use that to pretend we know exactly what is going on with them.
The truth is, we all pretend to be someone we aren't,
to know something when it's only a guess.
Everyone fights a battle in a different way.
Everyone views the world in a different shade.
There is no way to ever truly know how someone else is feeling or thinking,
sure you can ask but you won't ever experience that exact thing.
Don't pretend you see the world through another person’s eyes,
you'll always see it differently.
Don't pretend you know what someone will be feeling at one moment because all it will be is a guess.
You'll never truly know what it's like to feel like someone else.
I mean it's just such an odd concept to believe that you can know and feel
what someone else does. No matter how much into someone’s mind you get, it'll never be the same for you. I've come to realize that if someone can talk to you, knowing they'll never understand it like you do, it’s so much easier to talk to them. Its okay if you can't "be in someone else’s shoes."
I think it is better not to put your own imprint onto the situation.

We all have our own shoe print.

~Anonymous Teen

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

(Avoiding) Procrastination

     As the school year starts up again, I thought it would be important to talk about a topic all of us can relate to... Procrastination. While procrastination might not seem like a "serious" teen problem, it is something which affects us all from time to time. Especially in the summer, we naturally want to do anything but work. However, some laziness is permitted in the summer; during the school year, procrastination and being distracted can be an issue. Undone work can pile up, forcing you to do a lot of work the night before something is due, and lose sleep. Losing sleep decreases focus, opening the door for further procrastination. So how does one avoid procrastination?
    The best way to avoid procrastination is to box your time - tell yourself when and how long you will work, and then work during those times. If you successfully work, distraction-free, during that time, then reward yourself afterwards. Another thing you can do is listen to music while working. While it may seem counterintuitive to distract yourself in order to focus, I find that it appeases the, "this is boring let's do something else," part of my brain, and allows the rest to focus. Listening to music you like makes a boring task more approachable, or an interesting task more so.

However, sometimes procrastination is unavoidable. Every once in a while, you just need to push the work you have aside and do something else. That's okay, but consider what else you're doing. Instead of playing a video game or going on a joke website, go on YouTube and look up the topic you are supposed to be reading about and make it more interesting. I'm sure you can find all kinds of crazy people making YouTube videos about Hamlet or watching a fruit fly life cycle in fast motion. Worst case scenario - you have gained more knowledge about the world or watched something pretty entertaining, simply by sitting in your chair.

     If you want to do something other than work or want to talk about anything, Teen Link is an anonymous, non-judgmental, teen helpline available 6-10 pm every night. The number is 1-866-TEENLINK (833-6546). There is also a chat line open from Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, which you can get to by going to the website and clicking on the chat icon in the bottom right hand corner.