"Our Daughter Is on Drugs"
The Counselor's TurnRefocusing on the Marriage
"For the past two years, Julia and William have been struggling with every parent's nightmare," notes the counselor. "Their conflicting ways of reacting to stress made things worse. Julia needs to talk about her fears all the time; William tends to withdraw.
"It was clear these two loved each other very much, but the only way they could preserve their marriage and their individuality was to be a little selfish and refocus their time and energy on each other.
"First, I referred Julia to a psychiatrist, because she had the classic signs of clinical depression: anxiety, weeping, sleeplessness and an inability to concentrate. The doctor prescribed an antidepressant, which helped her face her problems.
"While the goal was to get these two communicating, we also discussed how unproductive it is to live in constant regret and self-doubt. 'Sometimes we just don't know why a child takes drugs,' I told them. 'It happens in the best of families, and you've done everything you can for Ariel right now. As long as you stick to the rules you've established for her, you must stop heaping blame on yourselves. It's time to move on.'
"It was also time for them to start paying attention to Matt, who had been lost in the shuffle. They encouraged him to invite his friends over so they could get to know the boys better. William and Julia keep in touch with the boys' parents, and several of the families meet regularly for potluck dinners. 'We plan to do this all through high school,' explained Julia, 'so we'll feel comfortable enough to call one another for help or to ask an opinion.'
"Their next challenge was to manage their intrusive in-law problem. I helped the couple understand the concept of boundaries--defining what they wanted and needed and letting others know when their behavior crossed the line. It wasn't easy, but Julia started standing up to her parents, which has strengthened her self-esteem as well as her marriage. 'I couldn't believe it,' William exulted at one session. 'Julia actually told them we weren't coming to Sunday dinner because she couldn't tolerate the way they spoke to me. Victory!'