Teen drug use – are parents prepared?
I am the mother of 2 adult children. One is an addict who is currently incarcerated due to his addictions, whereas my other adult child rarely has a drink and doesn’t touch drugs.
A parent’s role in their child’s addiction is a very uncomfortable place to be. As parents, we all think we will protect our children as they grow and steer them towards appropriate choices. We have all read the news accounts of a parent providing alcohol to a group of underage drinkers or a parent using drugs right in front of their children, and collectively shook our heads at their poor parenting. We all think we will notice the signs of abuse, have a plan in place in case of problems, and that a frank talk or some strict rules will keep things on course. We all have read the warning signs of a troubled teen and feel we will recognize that our child is in crisis.
Young people, alcohol and drugs
When my children were entering their teen years, I expected that many teens experiment with alcohol, marijuana, and even other drugs as part of their maturing into adulthood. I didn’t plan on condoning this behavior in my children, but neither did I think it was going to be a big deal, as long as we had open lines of communication and had rules and expectations that were in place.
As my children entered their teen years, we talked about how it was very likely that at some point they would encounter and be offered alcohol or drugs at a party or social situation. We talked about ways to say “no” and how to deal with those situations when they arose.
My daughter never once exhibited any indication that she had been drinking or using drugs. I would guess that at some point during high school she probably tried alcohol or pot, but I feel to this day that her experimentation was minimal. Overall, I got off terribly easy in her case.
Adolescent drug addiction – when does it become a problem?
My son was not such an easy case. I caught him and 2 friends with some alcohol once when he was 14. They felt sick the next morning and I thought it was going to be an isolated incident. I caught him with marijuana about a year later but I took it as fairly normal experimentation.
As it turns out, he was using MUCH more alcohol and drugs during these years than I ever suspected. Sometimes I did suspect he had been drinking or catch him with a beer cap in his pocket or red eyes or rolling papers. I would confront him and he would minimize and even deny. I thought when he looked me in the eye he was being honest. There is no excuse for me thinking any of this was “OK” except that for awhile I still felt that it was falling under normal teen behavior. His grades were average, he wasn’t getting in trouble, and he seemed to be happy and well adjusted. He didn’t seem secretive or moody and he didn’t have a new group of friends or new pastimes. He liked video games, playing his guitar and swimming – He seemed normal.
As he became 17 and then 18, it became much more obvious to me that my son was drinking and smoking. Yes, as time went on I became concerned that he wasn’t just using, he was abusing. Yes, I felt that he was developing bad habits and that someday he might find himself with a drinking problem to be addressed. And yes, I felt that there was a huge potential for him to get in trouble legally.
Adolescent chemical dependency
I would confront him, argue about it, threaten him, and then things would settle down and days marched on in this manner. But – the question remains – how could I not notice that my child was turning into an alcoholic and addict right under my nose? What could I have done differently to prevent it from happening? I don’t know. I wish I did, I would share the answer to this question with the whole world if it was possible.
Having no real answers, I can only suggest. Based on my experience, my advice to parents suspecting a problem would be if you suspect a problem it’s probably bigger than you think. Act on it and don’t allow any wiggle room. I wish I hadn’t allowed for “normal” teen experimentation as part of the equation. I wish I had demanded my son conform to my rules and that I had been tougher on him when he didn’t. I wish that I could have foreseen then what I see now.
Parents, teens and drugs … responsibility matters
Have you caught your teen drinking or using drugs? How did you handle it? Have there been any further incidents?