Parents Helping Parents

AddictionLike most parents of teenagers,
Rod and Leslie thought their son was going through normal transformations. At
the age of 15, their son, J, displayed behavioral changes and falling grades.
However, as he grew older, there were no improvements. What they discovered was
that J was addicted to drugs and alcohol. “People need to be aware of the
signs,” said Rod. “We did not see the addiction.”

Parents Helping Parents is an
organization dedicated to supporting parents dealing with children who have
addictions. According to their website, 95% of youth will drink alcohol before
graduating high school with 53% trying at least one illegal drug and a
staggering 20% will be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Now at age 34, J lives on his
own and works daily to be free of addiction. Rod and Leslie support and love
their son and now have the tools to aid him in his fight against addiction,
with the help of Parents Helping Parents. They hope that by sharing their
journey it will help other families. “That’s the scary thing with addiction,”
said Leslie, “you don’t know who it will grab.”

In his early adult years, J had
difficulty keeping jobs and lacked the ability to live on his own. He couldn’t
handle regular responsibilities like paying the electric bill. Also,
depression, which at times was suicidal, was a constant factor that kept
covering up his life of addiction. “It was one thing after another,” said
Leslie. “We were always worried about suicide.”

Over a period of time, Rod and
Leslie saw J’s life continue to decline as he rarely got out of bed and severe
changes in his complexion appeared. They also discovered he had an exorbitant
amount of outstanding bills and various loans, including pawn tickets. As Rod
and Leslie searched for ways to help their son, they visited his psychiatrist
for a possible change in medication. However, during that visit they learned of
J’s addiction to an illegal drug. “Our whole world was rocked,” said Leslie.
“We were in shock.”

One of the organizations Rod and
Leslie were referred to for guidance was Parents Helping Parents. Pat Nichols,
co-founder of the organization, explained that a child may need help at any
age. “Addiction is the number one health threat in America,” said Pat. “As a
society, we just don’t focus on it.”

Pat NicholsPat and his wife Vickie started
the organization in 2001 as a way to help their son who needed treatment while
also providing support to other parents who have children dealing with
addiction. The nonprofit organization has offices in Edmond and Norman. Pat’s
role as president of the Edmond chapter involves responding to calls and
e-mails, and keeping parents up-to-date on available resources. “We are
developing a new mobile website for the Edmond chapter,” said Pat.

The Edmond chapter hosts an
average of 35 parents per week with an average of four calls per week. By the
time a call is made, Pat emphasized, the situation is usually desperate.
Recently, he received an e-mail about addiction from a mom that sounded like
any mom in America. However, when he reached the end of the e-mail he realized
she was from Pakistan. “Addiction affects anyone,” said Pat, “no matter where
you are.”

Even though J’s life is in order
now, Rod and Leslie still attend group sessions at Parents Helping Parents in
Edmond. The support and education that they received from the organization
throughout their journey has been invaluable and along the way they said they
have developed some great relationships. They love and support their son,
within reason, as they know that the addiction is always present. “We will
always be dealing with the addiction,” said Rod. “This will always be our way
of life.”

With the help of organizations
like Parents Helping Parents, education and support is available for those
dealing with children who have addictions.

For
more information, visit parentshelpingparents.info or e-mail Edmondparents@aol.com.
For a recorded message, call 629-6384.

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