Support Group Helps Suburban Youth Stay Sober 

Support Group Helps Suburban Youth Stay Sober 
Posted by FoM on November 04, 1999 at 08:58:05 PT
By Matt Surman, Times Staff Writer
Source: LA Times
Tanya, a teenager with a pink cherub face, a halo of blond curls, and a nasty penchant for screaming at her parents, is getting herself together. 
She didn't climb onto the roof of the house last week. She played a game of hearts with her mother. And though she ran off three times on Saturday, she came back every time. These are the baby steps in the process of making things better.   Tanya is making those steps with the help of Kids in Sobriety, an Oxnard-based counseling and support group that started weekly meetings in Simi Valley a month ago. The organization expanded services to the eastern part of the county in response to a survey, released by Simi Valley's Youth Council, that indicated that as many as half of area high school students had dabbled in recreational drugs.   Far from the myth of urban decay and street corner drug dealers, this is a different, yet common, face of drug use. It is the face of the suburban teenager, more than one of whom looked small and scared at a meeting last week. The young people ranged from pretty 13-year-old Christy, who has experimented with pot, to Erin, an assured 16-year-old from Newbury Park, with four years of marijuana and methamphetamine use behind her.   These east county youths aren't exceptions. Drug and alcohol offense rates are higher in Oxnard, true. During the 1997-98 school year, there were 284 reported drug and alcohol offenses among that city's 14,000 high school students, compared with Simi Valley Unified's 25 offenses for nearly 20,000 students, according to a recent report from the California Department of Education. But the drug and alcohol problem is widespread throughout the county, experts said, and that includes the affluent east county.   "There's no difference between a kid in Oxnard and a kid in Simi Valley," said Debbie Hughes, who started the program in Oxnard just over a year ago. "It doesn't matter how much money you have, where you live, if your parents are doctors, lawyers or field workers."   That's why groups such as Kids in Sobriety exist.   Hughes' organization is not a treatment program. She is not a doctor. She's a drug and alcohol counselor who has battled her own drug problem and knows how to listen. She gives her support. She tries to turn parents and children back into confidantes after years of mutual mistrust.   In a county short on treatment programs--aside from hospitals, which require insurance, a handful of private programs, and organizations such as Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous--the free weekly program is a helpful addition, observers said.   "There are a lack of programs across the board," said Oxnard Assistant Police Chief Tom Cady who is a member of the Ventura County Alcohol and Drug Advisory Board. "Any program that will put its services out there, or offer better choices, is going to have immediate long-term benefit."   The first step is getting families in the same room, and having them sit on a couch together.   Hughes, and her partner, Pam Chapman, a therapist, say that's what makes their program different from those that focus merely on the teenager. They deal with the family as a unit. In Oxnard, it is an extensive outpatient program in which teens and parents are counseled three times a week. In the free Simi Valley program, though, youths and parents spend just one night a week together and are given homework assignments to work on the rest of the week.   The youths and their families sit on a circle of couches. A 15-year-old with a glinting eyebrow ring gets compliments for trading in his hoodlum attire for shiny new shoes and a spiky, short haircut. Christy, in her first week, sits quietly and twists her rings around her knuckles.   Erin, who has a quick and sweet smile, has been sober for five months. Even though she nearly lost her family over drugs, she admits to missing speed, the drug she chose to avoid the problems in her life.   "It's overwhelming at times," she said. "I feel like kind of a wuss. But I'm starting to think that we'll deal with it."   Addicts like Erin, who woke up in the hospital after a meth and alcohol overdose, are the extreme, Hughes said. Far more common is the marijuana smoker, the casual drug user who gradually finds pot to be a crutch.   Though the results are not usually as dramatic as meth's, pot can cause its fair share of problems, Hughes said.   "Pot is more popular than drinking," she said. "Some can still manage and nobody knows. But when they start smoking young, it takes a lot from them."   Research shows that those who smoke marijuana and drink at a younger age are more likely to abuse harder drugs further down the path. That's where Kids in Sobriety fills a need, according to some experts. The program is voluntary, not court-ordered, and can make a difference before drugs have consumed a teenager's life. That puts a lot of work on the parents.   "A parent can do everything right and kids can still go that way," said Curtis White, a senior deputy probation officer. Nonetheless, once a problem emerges, White said, parents need to be vigilant.   "A lot of people are not willing or able to do anything about it," White said. "A lot wait until their kid is already in trouble with the law. The earlier you catch it the better."   That's the concern for officials like Cady.   "It's so frustrating to see a kid get in trouble early on," he said. "Down the road we're going to have more significant problems."   Erin, for one, is hoping her significant problem is behind her, with the help of a program that has brought her much closer to her mother. And has helped remind her why she chooses to stay sober.   "It's the hardest thing I've ever had to do," the teen said. "I feel way older than I am." Thursday, November 4, 1999 Copyright 1999 Los Angeles Times 
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Comment #2 posted by Kim Baccigaluppi on September 08, 2001 at 19:44:51 PT:
Meeting in Simi Valley
Hi there! I have a son who is 16 yrs. old and am looking for AA meetings for him in Simi Valley. Do you know where there are any meetings - even if they are adults and some young people? Please respond as soon as possible.Thank you.Kim B.
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Comment #1 posted by Dankhank on November 04, 1999 at 11:18:10 PT:
Why do you say it the way; you do?
Early on it seems that pot is responsible for the screaming of Erin.We later find out that meth is her drug of choice.Then we find that pot can maybe cause a problem.Will they ever tell the truth?There is perhaps one last truth that we should address:Children should concentrate on growing up more, and using ANY drugs less.You got plenty of time to be grown up ...
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