Tracey Shipley
Youth, family and addictions counselor/creative therapist

Corona: Our kids, Addiction and Options

Over the past few months, I have been hosting sobriety groups, music programs, and family meetings for youth in need of support during these trying times.  I have been approached more than ever by families at a loss as to how to handle their teens during lockdowns, Corona rulings, school closures, and every other uncertain situation that this pandemic has brought into all of our lives worldwide.

I’ve been handling interventions with teens on the brink of being sent to rehabilitation centers where parents simply don’t know how to support their kid’s addictions during this trying time.  They are more aware of their teen’s behaviors and habits due to them being home more. They are confused over whether to allow them to hang out downtown with other teens or to keep them close to home.  If they keep them home do they allow them to smoke cigarettes or “grass” or tell them they can’t?  For most parents, it’s the first time they have been so involved with their teen’s day to day lives.  Our kids go to school and we have no idea where they are afterward, who they are with or what they are doing.  Maybe in some ways, it’s a blessing, until it’s not.

Due to the Corona rules, there are no face to face sobriety meetings in Jerusalem.  Twice a week I run support groups for teens and young adults who are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse.  The experience, strength, and hope that the kids receive from each other is beyond anything I can provide for them alone.  I have seen kids who have been struggling with drug abuse for years begin to get sober simply by hearing how their fellow group members were able to move forward in their lives without needing to run away from their personal pain.  They hear what tools others have used to stay strong and hear encouragement that there is always an answer to dealing with issues without the use of drugs and alcohol.  They share that they too have dealt with peer pressure and have learned that for now they must stay away from “using friends”.  When I ask them to share how marijuana has affected them negatively they explain that it caused them memory loss, a lack of motivation, a lapse in focus and concentration and an inability to relate to others authentically.  They shared that even if their social anxiety was less at the time of their encounters with others, they had not developed the tools they needed to learn how to handle social settings without drowning out the emotions and fears with drugs and alcohol.

When kids begin to use mood-altering chemicals of any type they begin to stunt their emotional growth. They no longer have to develop the skills needed to mature in order to deal with things. They can simply escape to the immediate gratification of feeling good at the moment.  Even if they began using drugs and alcohol to feel comfortable around friends and “have a good time” many find it hard to not also use getting high or drunk as a way to avoid dealing with issues or situations that challenge them.

Seeing more and more kids in need of an intensive support system to overcome their substance abuse as well as deal with their situation at home now that they are home more than ever I have found that my support groups, my music programs and my family sessions are more needed than ever.  Adding to these groups that I have been holding I am in the process of creating a day program for teens and young adults struggling with addiction and other issues.  The program will utilize creative arts and sports along with group sessions to help the participants to deal with their issues, addictions, and challenging habits in healthy positive ways.  They will learn how to communicate in a non-threatening way while sharing their very real feelings with each other and their families.

Years ago many programs were available for teens and young adults struggling with addiction and addictive behaviors.  Sadly all of the day programs have been closed and there is only one drug rehab for boys under the age of 18.  I have learned over the years that sending our kids to rehabs before it is absolutely necessary can actually introduce them to harder drugs and drug users.  This program will allow parents to start with a less intensive framework to help their kids choose whether they wish to turn their lives around and if so how to do it.

The staff will consist of both young facilitators who themselves have overcome addiction and older professionals who will be leading the groups and activities. Each participant will be given the attention he needs to help him deal with his life in healthy ways. Family sessions will be incorporated as well.

After spending over thirty years working with teens, young adults and their families I feel confident that my team and I can make a huge difference in the life of teens and young adults. I’m happy to share two comments sent to me by mothers of teens who I have recently worked with.  Should you know of any teen or young adult in need of what we have to offer I would love to hear from you. You can read more about me and my programs on my website: www.jerusalemteencounseling.net .

The mother of a 13-year-old teen:

“Tracey is a highly-trained, very knowledgeable, dedicated, and skilled teen counselor and professional. Her constant wisdom, love, concern, parenting advice, and presence at important school and social welfare meetings and during very difficult moments in my teenager’s and family’s life was truly a lifesaver. I myself needed every moment of her outstanding care in order to have survived the truly harrowing experiences of being a parent to a highly impulsive, at-risk teen. While I had other professionals involved in the situation, none equaled to Tracey’s ongoing availability and expertise. She was available to us 24/7, no matter where she was or what she was doing. Luckily and fortunately, our life dramatically improved, thanks to Tracey’s advice and involvement. I highly recommend her to any parent challenged with a difficult teen.”

A mother of a drug-addicted 16-year-old:

“Tracey Shipley came to us like the answer to a prayer. It’s crazy to think she has only been in our lives for a week, it feels like she is family now. We were longing for guidance as to how to help our 16-year-old son with his weed addiction, and we had no idea where to turn. Tracey had already reached out to our son about joining her ‘School of Rock” project as a drummer for one of her bands. Our son wouldn’t answer his phone when she called him and she decided to contact me, as I had befriended her on Facebook around a month ago for some unexplained reason. She wrote, “Can you please call me about your son?” I had this thought “someone wants to talk to me about my son, maybe G-d sent her.”  Sure enough, she has been a G-d send from that conversation on. She met with us, did an intervention, set up a plan, half adopted our son, has given us limitless support and time. And I’m so happy to say a week into our plan our son is off weed for the last 3 days and after a few very rocky days, I feel like we have our son back. He is pleasant fun, communicative and so much more present. I know the journey is just beginning and we have a very long way to go, but Tracey has restored our hope! We now know we will have the support and the benefit of her generous spirit and infinite wisdom, we have Tracey on our side! I can’t recommend hiring Tracey enough. She can literally save your child’s life, and go a long way toward saving you too.”

Channel 11 interviewing our sobriety group about the challenges of drug abuse during Corona
Our upcoming Day Program opening for youth. (Courtesy)
About the Author
Tracey Shipley is a youth and family counselor specializing in addictions and family communication. She was born in the US and moved to Israel in 1984 to continue her studies in Art Therapy. She moved back to the US in 1989 and began working in a drug rehab for teens where she was trained while she worked as a primary counselor. She moved back to Israel in 1996 and continued her work in addictions at the Jerusalem Methadone Clinic for a total of 9 years. She initiated projects for the children of the addicts at the Center, for Ethiopian Teens and a Sober Music Bar for teens and young adults: Sobar Jerusalem.
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