“My Dad Abandoned Me, and My Mom Threw Me in a Shelter”

August 5, 2014

Diane says her 17-year-old daughter, Brianna, is an out-of-control drug abuser whose life is in danger. Brianna claims she’s just living the partying lifestyle by using Xanax, Molly, marijuana, PCP, heroin and alcohol. Will Brianna realize the dangers she’s facing and get the help she needs?







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BriannaDiane, Brianna's motherMichael, Brianna's fatherWendy, Michael's fiancéeDr. Frank Lawlis, Dr. Phil Advisory Board ChairmanDr. Matt Polacheck, Center for Discovery

Brianna’s Behavior

Diane says her 17-year-old daughter, Brianna, is an out-of-control drug abuser who has run away from home at least five times and does not respect authority. She says she recently forced Brianna into a youth shelter, hoping it would scare the teen straight, but nothing has changed — and she fears for her daughter’s life. “Her drug use started in ninth grade, and it just got progressively worse,” she says, adding that her daughter became sexually active at 14. “She wasn’t going to school. She was acting out, and she pulled a knife on my ex-husband.” She says over the past year, Brianna has started using a form of ecstasy known as Molly, as well as Xanax and alcohol — information she admits she found out by reading her daughter’s journal. “When I confronted her with it, she told me, ‘Yeah. That’s exactly what I do,’” she says, adding that Brianna also confessed that she has done heroin. “I’ve asked Brianna whom she’s getting the money from to get the drugs, and she said to me, ‘You don’t need money to get drugs all the time.’ I would say she’s doing sexual stuff so she can get drugs for free,” Diane says, adding that she’s at her wits’ end. “I feel like I have done everything for this girl, but nothing seems to work.”

Onstage, Dr. Phil asks Diane how seriously she takes the situation, and she responds, “If I don’t get help for her, she’s going to die.” She adds that she doesn’t believe Brianna’s claims that she started smoking marijuana at 10 and doing heroin at 13. “She’s a chronic liar,” she says. “I didn’t see any signs … until high school.”

Brianna explains her choices — and reveals a source of pain from her childhood. Plus, why does she say her mom is overreacting?


Brianna insists she could stop doing Molly and Xanax and “just smoke weed,” and admits that she smokes at least five joints a day. She also says that she’s currently on home instruction, because her mother pulled her out of her high school.

“Why did you do that?” Dr. Phil asks Diane.

“Because a lot of her problems were happening in the high school,” Diane responds. When Dr. Phil points out that Brianna blows off home instruction, Diane says, “I confronted her about it,” adding that Brianna told her she just didn’t feel like going.

“Is she a sucker?” Dr. Phil asks Brianna. “You sucker her, right? You manipulate her?”

“Yeah,” Brianna responds.

“She’s very manipulative,” Diane adds.

Diane says her ex-husband, Michael, abandoned Brianna after their divorce eight years ago — and she feels that contributed to the teen’s downward spiral. How does Michael respond?


Is Brianna the only person abusing drugs in the family? And, see what causes the teen to storm offstage.



Dr. Phil addresses Diane and Michael, saying, “Do you two understand that this is not just about Brianna? This is about a dysfunctional family.” He tells Diane that she enables Brianna by giving her money, knowing she’ll spend it on drugs — and Michael admits he has done the same.

Dr. Phil also tells Michael that he’s overmedicating himself. “You’re taking 80 milligrams of Oxycontin, four times a day, I’m telling you — crazy,” he says.

“It’s actually twice a day,” Michael responds. “It’s still too much. I understand that.”

“It gets to the point where it exacerbates your pain,” Dr. Phil says.

“Oh, I know for a fact that my back hurts more because it wants the narcotic in my body,” Michael says, adding that he tries not to take the pills.

When Brianna returns to the stage, Dr. Phil offers guidance. “I know two things for sure, and one is that your parents love you very much.”

Dr. Phil enlists the help of Dr. Saba Haq, with Doctor on Demand, to alert Brianna to the dangers she’s facing — will it make an impact?



Michael’s fiancée, Wendy, says there’s always tension whenever Brianna is around. “I have tried to talk to Brianna about her choices,” she says. “She has told me, ‘You’re not my mother. I don’t need to talk to you. There’s nothing you can do for me.’” She says that Brianna will manipulate situations to create conflict between her parents so that she can get her way. “I do place some blame on Diane, for not letting Michael be more involved,” she says. “She thinks her way is the right way."

Dr. Phil asks Brianna if she wants her father in her life, and she tearfully responds, “Absolutely, yes. I don’t want to lose him again.”

“What do you need from him that you’re not getting?”

“I just need him to be there,” she responds.

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Frank Lawlis, Chairman of the Dr. Phil Advisory Board and author of Not My Child: A Progressive and Proactive Approach to Dealing with Addicted Teenagers and Their Families. “If I could take Brianna and make her totally well, in all aspects, and she went back to this family, she would go back the way she is now,” he says. “There are no skills for her to model after.”

“She’s set up to fail here, on so many levels,” Dr. Phil says.

“The patient here is not Brianna; the patient here is this family.”