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.