Addiction's tough lessonsMother helps other families cope

Jeannie Barden (left) and her daughter, Sarah Barden, 21, with Gizmo, are seen at their home in West Bloomfield, Mich. At 16, Sarah was abusing drugs. Dealing with her daughter’s addiction was like “going through hell,” Barden said. But with help, Sarah is now in recovery.

Patricia Beck

DETROIT -- At 16, Sarah Barden was using OxyContin, cocaine, Ecstasy, heroin, marijuana and still going to Walled Lake Central High School. She lied, stole, cheated and tried to manipulate everybody, but mostly her parents.

"My daughter convinced me that she didn't have a problem," said Jeannie Barden, Sarah's mother. "By the time I thought something was going on, I was already late. When I thought she was drinking and smoking pot, she was already doing cocaine and popping pills."

Dealing with her daughter's addiction was like "going through hell," Barden said. But with help, Sarah is in recovery. She was treated at the Henry Ford Maplegrove Center in West Bloomfield, Mich., and has been clean for three years.

Barden, 55, of West Bloomfield is trying to help others avoid the same mistakes that she made in missing the signs of addiction in her daughter. She volunteers at Maplegrove, sharing her story and offering tips to parents -- at a time when the number of young people using drugs is on the rise, according to the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

Marijuana use among teens rose in 2011 for the fourth straight year, and daily marijuana use is at a 30-year peak level among high school seniors, according to the 2011 Monitoring the Future report released last month. In 2011, 50 percent of high school seniors reported having tried an illicit drug at some time, the report stated, and 40 percent used one or more drugs in the past 12 months.

Few are getting treatment. More than 23 million Americans ages 12 and older needed some sort of treatment for drug or alcohol use problems, according to the national survey. But only 2.6 million received treatment. Most didn't get help

because they didn't think they needed it. Barden offers tips for parents:

--Get your child tested as soon as you suspect a problem: Sarah started drinking and smoking marijuana in middle school. She moved on to prescription pills, which is typical. According to the study, marijuana is the most prevalent illicit drug used by young people, followed by nonmedical use of prescription drugs.

"The minute you have a suspicion, go immediately and seek help and get a drug testing kit," Barden said.

--The kids who do drugs might surprise you: Sarah used to buy drugs at an abandoned house in Detroit.

"One thing that was strange was going there and seeing half of your high school class in a dope house," Sarah said. "... There were popular kids. The jock kids. From any social clique there was."

--Get counseling to learn how to deal with an addicted child: "By the time the problem gets drastic, you are insane yourself," Barden said. "They need help, but you also need help. We can't fix it until we get help."

In many communities, there are free, weekly Families Anonymous meetings.

--You are not alone: "I think some parents are afraid or ashamed of going to these meetings because they think nobody is like them," Barden said.

--Set rules and consequences: Sarah said her parents had rules, but she didn't face serious consequences at first. "I made it through school only with the help of my mom doing my school work for me," she said. "She was good at keeping my life together for me, until she realized that was keeping me sick."

Robin Walsh, a therapist at Maplegrove, said this is a common problem. Many parents do not set limits or boundaries.

--As hard as it is, you have to stick to the consequences.

Emboldened with courage and advice she learned at parent meetings, Barden kicked her daughter out of the house after she broke some of the house rules. Barden held firm and wouldn't let her return. This was a monumental change for Barden, who had always let Sarah come back. "The last time that I left, I knew she meant it," Sarah said.

Sarah entered treatment, this time wanting help, and turned her life around.

--It's never over.

Now 21, Sarah continues to attend support groups, preferring Alcoholics Anonymous.

Jeannie attends Families Anonymous, and she keeps a close eye on her daughter.

And now, Sarah is urging parents to help their children.

"The best advice I could give parents is let your kids face consequences," she said. "Don't try to cover it up."