Teenage addiction is an escalating concern. More and more high school coeds are becoming compulsive drinkers and drug users by the time they are ready to graduate from high school.
We live in a culture that is very casual about drinking and drug use. One of the frightening realities is that it is starting much earlier than many parents want to acknowledge. It is not uncommon for middle schoolers to have afternoon drinking parties at the beach or to be at someone's home on a hot summer night unsupervised drinking up a storm.
By the time some of these middle schoolers reach senior year in high school, they are hard-core addicts. What makes their behavior even more complicated is that they defy the traditional profile of an addict. They are reasonably functional. They go to school regularly, do well, play sports, hold down a job and are even pleasant to live with, except that they love getting drunk or high!
For whatever reason, many parents turn a deaf ear or blind eye to this behavior. Maybe some genuinely don't see it, but others see it and believe it is a rite of passage - a teenage phase that will pass. So their parental response is toleration and co-existence because they believe it will pass.
What is frightening is that it is not a passing phase for a growing number of high school coeds. It is possibly a phase that they are not passing through, but rather one that they are getting stuck in, or everyone's worst nightmare, dying in.
Parents need to really re-visit this area of concern, especially during the summer months when people tend to be very casual and laid back.
As a parent, do you know what your children are doing? Do you know the parents of your children's friends? Do your children hang out during the day in unsupervised settings? When they go to parties, is there adult supervision? What is your position on teenage drinking and smoking?
If your son or daughter is eighteen, do you believe that he or she is going to drink anyway? Do you feel there is nothing you can do to stop them so you take the position of social tolerance?
How do you deal with parents who permit social drinking in their neighborhood, when you don't and your teenage kids want to hang out there?
KM started drinking at age eleven. He is the oldest of four kids. His Dad died when he was six. His mother has worked hard to raise her children as a single Mom. By age fourteen, KM was a full-blown alcoholic who now became a poly-substance abuser. She forced him into treatment, but he ran every time. He never completed a program.
By age sixteen, KM's drinking was out of control. He was becoming aggressive and violent. His mother felt she had no recourse but to file a PINS petition. That process calmed him down, but he still resisted treatment. He went to Catholic schools all his life. That environment of structure and discipline did not force him to get help, but rather forced him to become a better sneak and manipulator.
During his senior year, KM was out of control and reckless. His high school, along with his Mom, did an intervention. He entered treatment. The principal made it clear that KM would not be welcome back to finish the year if he did not complete treatment and follow their directives.
Due to the seriousness of his addiction to a multitude of substances, KM was recommended to extensive, intensive residential treatment. With reluctance, he agreed.
Few treatment programs of this kind exist for his age. It was located reasonably close to his school, so he was able to attend his senior classes and return to his treatment campus as soon as school was through.
His program consisted of three phases. Phase One was intensive rehab. Phase Two was intensive campus treatment and Phase Three was transitioning home or to independent living.
KM did very well during Phase One and Two. However, during Phase Three he was warned to be cautious and careful. At this time, he was allowed to work. He was encouraged not to work in the venue he selected because of all the drinking and smoking that occurs in that venue.
He swore up and down to his treatment team that he was strong enough to resist any temptation. He was a good student of recovery and had all the right words to defend his questionable choice. He claimed he had both the tools and the knowledge to use his new tools well.
Three days into Phase Three, he relapsed. He was told he had to return to Phase Two and the job had to go. He was allowed to give his employer notice. He lied to his treatment team and did not give his employer notice.
Within twenty-four hours, he was badgering his mother and trying to guilt her into taking him back. He promised her the world.
However, she signed a commitment to support his recovery and treatment team by not enabling his addictive and compulsive behavior. The agreement was that he could only come home if he effectively completed treatment. He did not. As hard as it was for her, she held her ground, honored her commitment and said no. For her as a Mom, it was devastating.
She continues to hold her ground. KM has left treatment altogether and has been rescued by a friend and his family. After they took him in, they called his Mom. She was grateful for the call and was polite, but she let this family know that they were not helping the situation. To the contrary, they were enabling her son to live in relapse mode. KM is eighteen, there was not much more she could do.
Although this family had good intentions, KM gets high with their son.
We all have the right to parent our children as we see fit. We do not have the right to interfere with another's parenting unless it borders on neglect, abuse or criminality.