“You are too serious all the time,” says my 16 year old daughter.
She also says that all I talk about is drugs and alcohol and that I turn every conversation into a “life lesson”.
And she is right.
Because lately, I have been completely immersed in the epidemic that is facing the country. Talk of prescription drug and heroine use and overdose is everywhere I turn…news, documentaries, talk shows. The story is the same; suburban kids and young adults are dying at a rapid rate. The heroine dealers are actually setting up “shops” in affluent suburban neighborhoods where they know there is already a prescription drug problem. They offer a cheaper, more readily available alternative to the prescription drugs. And kids all around America are jumping on the one-way drug train that seems to be moving in the same direction — prescription drugs, to cheap heroin, to overdose( saved w/ narcan), to rehab, recovery, relapse, overdose, and often death.
And so many of them look just like my kids — popular, good looking, athletic, likely to succeed in life. My guard is up and I am too frightened to let it slip.
Last time I cleaned out my medicine cabinet, I found 5 bottles of Oxycontin. Five full bottles from breast cancer surgeries, knee surgeries, appendectomies, etc. I never took more than one or two pills after any surgery and moved quickly to Advil/Tylenol and I always made sure my kids did the same. This left us with a full bottle of Oxy’s for each of my 5 member household. The amount the doctor prescribed always well exceeded any pain meds we needed. A recent study showed that the amount of Oxycontin out on the street is equal to one full bottle per every adult in the US. It’s just too easy for these kids to get. They only need to walk to their bathroom.
It’s not that I am just realizing this now. I have always been aware and worried as my kids have gotten older about drugs and alcohol. Maybe more than most because of the amount of addiction in my own family . I grew up seeing first-hand the devastating effects of substance abuse . So as a parent, I have always been a stickler for rules about drinking –21 is the law– period. Ours is not the house where kids can “drink safely underage”. I have never bought into that theory. And I don’t respect the parents that allow other people’s kids to drink at their houses. Do what you want with your own children– leave mine out of it please.
But I am not stupid. I know high school kids will drink. I was in high school. But I feel that if I stand up for the law and hold steady to my ground rules than it might make them a little more worried about starting early. I don’t want to make them sneaky …but if they have to sneak then it will be a little harder for them and hopefully not worth the effort or the ramifications when I do catch them. Why make it easy? Especially when the effects of alcohol on a young brain are out there in print and studies have proven it over and over–the younger kids start to drink, the worse the effects are on their brain capacity. Why would I want to enhance a handicap in my kids? The world is a compettetive place. Wouldn’t I want them to have every advantage available to them? Brain cells are an advantage.
So the longer I can make them wait–the better. My 19- yr-old son said it perfectly one night; he said that he didnt drink early on because of three reasons # 1. He knew I was a “psycho” about drinking. #2. He played sports. and #3. It seemed pointless.
He is not a “goody goody” by any means and he did drink in his senior year and honestly by the time they go to college it’s out of my hands. But the fact that his number one reason for abstaining was his fear that I was “crazy about drinking” makes me happy. And it tells me to continue that serious craziness with my youngest daughter.
If I am serious with my kids about drinking, then I am stone-faced-stoically-super-serious about drugs. I won’t even laugh about drug jokes– which they make quite often.
“What’s wrong with you you?” I might say lightheartedly to my oldest if he does something stupid.
“I don’t know it must be the crack I smoked this morning,” he chuckles and guffaws.
“Not even funny,” I retort.
Because it’s not. Not even in the least. It actually scares the shit out of me.
I don’t know for sure what makes some kids get wrapped up in drugs and others not. I think it’s a few different factors that sometimes come together and sometimes work independently. I believe there may be a predisposition to addiction — a genetic element. If that is true than my kids definitely have it and that makes me more vigilant. I also believe that security and insecurity and timing all play a huge role.( I won’t even get into how social media plays a role in insecurities, that I will save for another day). But if your son or daughter is feeling bad about themselves and someone is there with a pill to make it all go away and the timing is right (or wrong)–bang. It can happen that fast. Or the opposite; if your kid has a super inflated sense of self-esteem than there may be the feeling that nothing can hurt them–they are invincible, they won’t get addicted. It could be all three of these together. Or it could be none at all.
There is no right or wrong answer. No perfect way to raise a kid nowadays. The problems today are so much harder to handle than when they were toddlers. I have 2 kids in college and one in high school. One that is over-confident, one is too hard on himself and one that struggles with insecurity issues. I don’t know the answers. All I know for sure is that I may have been deluding myself as to the expiration date on parental worrying. There isn’t one. And until the day when I am sure they are all on safe ground, when their egos are intact and their morals are fully set in amber, I will remain a pain-in-the-ass Mom about this issue. Because I never want to be writing a blog one day from the other side–looking back and thinking I should have taken it more seriously.