Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Addicts

Many times over the past few years, I have struggled with the question of what could we have done differently as parents to prevent the problems we are having now. I clearly remember having a conversation with my husband, probably when my son was about ten, regarding drugs. We truly believed that we had nothing to worry about, because we thought we were doing everything right as parents. I have always strongly believed the old cliches that children learn by example and therefore as parents we need to practice what we preach. Neither my husband nor I smoke, use drugs, or drink (other than the occasional glass of wine/beer). We also believed that another safeguard against drug use among teens is to keep your child busy. To that effect, we had our son involved in every sport imaginable. For many years he played on basketball and soccer teams. He snowboarded in the winters and took sailing lessons in the summer. He was an amazing mountain biker, and this was a sport that he enjoyed with my husband. We had the drug talk - many times. We were loving, present, and involved with our son, and yet here we are.

Perhaps, one thing I would change was how I reacted when I first realized my son was using drugs. It happened one month before his fourteenth birthday. I was picking up his jeans off the bathroom floor, and out fell a small bag of weed. I was shocked, but not panicked. I have never been naive about drug use and teens. I experimented and so did my husband. I was mainly worried that he was starting so young (I smoked my first joint at a party at about sixteen). But, overall I figured this was some teen experimentation that would not turn into anything serious. My husband and I confronted our son, and he admitted it was his. We had the drug talk (again) and grounded him for two weeks. I thought that was the end of it. We quickly realized that it was just the beginning, and I really can not get into everything that has happened over four years in one post, but it has been a nightmare. Over time, our son was no longer our son. He has lost all ambition and motivation and one by one he has dropped every hobby and sport he has been involved in. His life now revolves around weed (getting money/smoking/eat/sleep/repeat).

Later, I will get into all of the strategies we have tried to get him off this track to nowhere, but for now, my advice for parents of preteens/teens would be this: when you find that first evidence of drug use, take it seriously. Don't assume that all teen experimentation is just that. I think that some parents (including myself at one time) have this belief that these problems only happen to teens from certain types of families. They think if they do the types of things that we did, they will be immune to these problems. I wish it were true, but it is not. No family is safe. In the parent support group I attend, the other parents are a very diverse group from every occupation and every parenting style you could imagine. I now know that a two week grounding was not enough of a message to my son that drug use in our home will not be tolerated. I wish I had more answers, because I would not wish the hell we are going through on any other family. I will talk about more later about one other regret that we have, that is, being more of an influence on our son's peer group. You can not underestimate the power of peers during the early teen years. All of the values and morals you thought you had passed on to your child can easily be tossed aside with the influence of one friend. Until then, hold your children as close as you can for as long as possible. My son is still physically under our roof, but I miss him so much.


  1. I was pretty much continually high from about age 14-18. I was a mess, and drugs were fun. I was never addicted to anything, never had a physical need. But the people I was with were fun, they were there and they listened, and they didn't make any demands on me. At a time in my life when everything else was complete shite (my mother was dead, living in a new town, my father an alcoholic) having people to turn to was fantastic.

    At the end of the day, I did drugs because I wanted to, much as adults drank a few beers at the end of the night. I didn't talk to my father because he wouldn't understand, wasn't there, or would have immediately go on the attack, none of which would have helped. What did help was his unconditional support when I did move home, and his own attempts to curb his own addiction. Me moving out on my own and making mistakes helped me grow out of it.

    Putting him out, is that an answer? I was high all the time, but still working and contributing-has he been to therapy, alone or with you? It's your house remember. It's your son, but sometimes we have to let them scream so they can grown, right?

    I really don't know. I've been there, but will have no real answers if it happens to one of mine.

    I don't think there are standard answers.

  2. The one impact that I have had because of my child's use is the knowledge that his friends are so much more important to him than myself and my husband. I know this is a teen thing, but it is hard when it happens, I think I was just not prepared for him to abandon my beliefs as easily as he did and perhaps I saw that as him abandoning me and the family...

    Strange how our minds works sometimes when grief hits home.

  3. Welcome to blogland, Cat sent me.

    It is not the parent, it is the addict. My parents were strict about my friends, and they cracked down on me, hard. So I left and lived at the Y. You can help point an addict in the right direction, but the ultimate choice of what they do is theirs alone.

    There are probably correlations and statistics that state otherwise, but the quality of the home life and parenting really doesn't matter much, imo. Don't be down on yourself. Do what you can to guide him...but I think at his age the choice will be his.

    Best wishes, and you and your son will be in my thoughts, and evening prayers.

    and keep blogging.

  4. Thordora,
    Thanks for your response. I have been a fan of your blog for quite some time, and like Cat's blog, I think it is your honesty that brings me back again and again. Sometimes the truth is an ugly thing, and revealing the ugliness in our lives takes bravery.

    Our son has been attending therapy for some time, without any improvement. We have him on a waiting list to be assessed by a drug treatment program for teens called CHOICES. Depending on that assessment, he may be able to enter an in-patient treatment facility (if he agrees to go). Thank you for sharing your experience. I think what is most frustrating for us in dealing with our son is that he has had no major hardships in his life. You were dealing with your mother's death, an alcoholic father, and a move. It is clear where your pain was coming from. Our son is angry and in pain, but is either unwilling or unable to tell us why.

    Your poem hit home hard and I still have tears. My son is still here in body, but not spirit, and we desperately need him to come back. I have a very tough battle ahead of me. Taking the first steps will be much easier knowing that I am not alone and am not the first to enter this fight. Thank you for your support.

  5. Cat sent me...I'm late for an AA meeting. I'll be back before dark! PROMISE!

  6. Thank you Patrick. I know one of the first things I need to do is let go of my guilt. It's much easier said than done.

    Steve, I am looking forward to hearing from you.

  7. Hi Hannah! I'm here from Cat too! I can not imagine the difficulty that you are going through. I posted recently about the pain of parents that have children that are addicts vs. the pain of a spouse of an addict, (ME!). I know the pain is worse for you parents. It is easier as a spouse to detach.

    I know something else though, too! IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT! We can only do what we know best to do and that's all that is expected from us! I know it must be hard not to take the blame as it is your child. I took the blame from my husband for years! However, the only one that is control is the addict him/herself. It isn't about YOU!

    I look forward to hearing more from you. Your poem was beautiful!