What do you do if your son or daughter has a substance abuse problem? Where do you turn? How do you get help if your child is in denial?
Drug and alcohol use and misuse is on the rise. Before most students graduate from high school, they will have had an experience, brief or extensive, with chemicals that could ultimately be lethal.
On many high school and college campuses, the use of pot is as accepted as having ketchup on your hamburger. Many young adults see nothing wrong with recreational use of pot, even though it is against the law. An even harder conversation to have is whether or not consistent weed smoking is hazardous to your health.
The use of marijuana is a complicated issue because so many people from occupants in the White House to athletes, heroes, clergy, teachers and parents have smoked and/or do smoke. As a norm most who use see nothing wrong with it.
There is no empirical data that documents recreational use of pot is going to make someone an addict and/or that pot use is a gateway experience to hardcore drug use. However, it is safe to say that recreational pot use can feed potential addictive behavior and in turn make a person more vulnerable to experimenting with hardcore drugs.
Abuse of any pleasure seeking circumstance more often than not leads to disaster, whether it is drugs, alcohol, food, sex or gambling. Balance and understanding is key.
Parents cannot expect their children to be compliant around pot use if they smoke it and grow it. The days of do as I say not as I do are dead. If you abuse alcohol regularly, you cannot expect your children to learn balance and moderation.
It is imperative as our children are growing and developing, to monitor what they eat, drink and smoke. As parents, we have an obligation to at least make an effort at creating a life-giving, healthy environment that nurtures their overall development.
Most teenagers will feel compelled to experiment with a wide range of circumstances during high school and college. Where they go and what they do with this experimentation in large measure will be shaped by our behavior and conversations with them.
If we choose to be silent, our silence on many levels will give approval. Fear should not paralyze us from having these difficult conversations.
Tolerating your son or daughter's misuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs will only present other potential problems down the road, especially if the disease of addiction has burdened your immediate and extended family.
Condoning illegal and potentially abusive behavior is reckless and irresponsible parenting. You cannot imprison your teenage children, but they need to be challenged and confronted when they elect to embrace potentially lethal behavior.
To adopt the position that this kind of teenage behavior is a "phase" that most teenagers go through is dangerous thinking that left unchecked could have lethal consequences.
Conversations about social choices and behaviors are hard. However, they are imperative ones. As parents we need to know where our young adults stand on drug and alcohol use. Each family should have a position that parents are willing to enforce. If your children are consistently in non-compliance, there need to be clear, enforceable consequences.
To talk a hard line and have no way or intention of implementing it, is setting yourself up for disaster. Coexisting and/or pretending these social dilemmas don't exist is also a disaster. This position gives our children a very mixed message. We need to remember that parenting is hard. During their high school and college years, if we are doing our job effectively, our kids are not going to be thrilled with us. It is definitely a roller coaster ride, but like the ride, there is an end.
Your son is seventeen. He is a senior in high school. Since sophomore year, his grades have fallen, his friends have changed and his behavior in the house has become unpredictable.
Up until recently you processed the changes as part of adolescence. As a parent you had concerns, but AJ was coming home on time and participating at most family functions without any resistance.
His first quarter senior report was a disaster. More disturbing than his two "f's" in subjects necessary for graduating on time, was his being absent from certain classes twelve times. When you confronted him about those absences, he gave you a song and dance as a response. You knew he was lying.
Shortly after that confrontation, AJ came to you and confessed he was lying. You were relieved. He proceeded to tell you what he was doing with his friends when he was supposed to be in class. He was hanging out at different friends homes getting high. The parents were not home and AJ and his friends were smoking, snorting and drinking. AJ admitted for the most part all he did was smoke weed. However, he did admit to trying coke and even snorting a little heroin because it was so available.
His reason for coming forward is that he is frightened. He acknowledged smoking pot regularly since sophomore year, a couple of joints daily. Presently he feels addicted, that he cannot stop. Some days he just feels like fiending all over the place.
AJ asked his Dad for help. The first person they reached out to was the family physician, who gave them a referral. Problem number one was that there were not an abundance of places that deal specifically with teenagers to reach out to. Problem number two was that their insurance carrier did not cover any form of substance abuse treatment.
AJ's parents finally found a place thirty miles from home that was willing to work out a payment plan. However, they assessed AJ's addiction as so serious they recommended residential care. The story continues because that resource list is even shorter than outpatient possibilities. The few facilities that are available are exceptionally costly for out of pocket payment.
This is only the tip of the iceberg for those who are struggling with addictions. We need more resources for young adults that are competent and cost effective.
We need to open up our communities to different twelve step recovery meetings, so that the growing number of young people and older people alike with addictions will have a network of support that will better insure their opportunity for long term recovery and sobriety.