#1 – Good for you for asking
As a former heroin addict, writer, and filmmaker, I’ve traveled around the country speaking about addiction. I have to admit, I’d be pressed to come up with a question a parent has not asked me about addiction. But this one is tough. As a warning: my advice may not be for everybody. Some health professional may think I’m too harsh. That’s fine. I’m not looking for friends or approval. My advice is free, I lived it. Here it is, take or leave it.
So why is it tough to know what to do when your son is on drugs? And why do kids do drugs in the first place?
I’d bet that about 90% of parents look the other way when they ask, “Is my kid on drugs?” and then learn of their son’s drug use. The majority of parents don’t want to believe that drug addiction can happen to their son. Why? Because they smoked marijuana and experimented with drugs as a teenager themselves. There are some parents that think it’s a natural part of growing up and commonly say, “My son will grow out of it.” Bottom-line, don’t be an idiot.
#2 – It’s not your fault
Why do people become addicted to drugs? Even scientists don’t know. But first things first. You must understand and believe it’s not your fault that your son is a drug addict. But it is your fault if you don’t do anything about it.
#3 – Be a good parent to your son
Your only job right now is to be a parent to your son. A parent should always be there to teach you, to be a mentor, to help him with decisions, and to be stern when needed. So the next part is easy. Be realistic! Go to your son as a parent who wants only the best for him. Don’t be emotional and ask stupid questions. In fact, never ever ask your son a question that will make it easy for him to lie to you. Because guess what, he will lie and that will hurt you even more.
Forget all the bull-crap, ego based questions dancing wildly inside your brains. Ones like, “How could this have happened to you?” Or, “Why could you do this to me! I gave you everything,” I hate to tell you, but both the questions to you son and the answers he gives are irrelevant at the moment. Here’s what you CAN do to be a good parent.
- Find out what’s happening in your son’s life.
- Work at convincing him you really want to help him.
- Apologize for not seeing it earlier.
- Act like you truly give a shit.
- Truly, truly, love you son right now!
#4 – Expect either acceptance or denial
Now a couple things may happen when you confront your son about drug use. First, he could be truthful and tell you everything. That would be wonderful. Together, you’ll have a common starting point for help. The second reaction, denial, has a tougher response, but still a very winnable playing field. So let’s look at each reaction possible in further depth.
Acceptance is possible
Naturally, the easiest route is open communication. He’s truthful, accepts it, and together you find a therapist and a peer-driven self-help groups that allows everybody to contribute to a game plan, or a manageable way to confront the problem. Now even if he fails a few times, which he may, it doesn’t matter. You stay with the game plan, you continue to be supportive with love, and take it one day at a time, exactly as your son will have to beat this addiction, one day at a time.
Denial is more likely
Okay, so what do I do if he denies everything? Easy answer! Be stern. If your son is under the legal age of adulthood, go to your local drug store, buy a drug testing kit and force him to comply with your wishes. If not, take him for a physical exam and let a doctor do a drug test. Most times, your son will admit it before you have to act on either of the above choices. Why, because he’s smart and knows the test will not lie.
But what if he doesn’t? What if he tells you to go to hell? Easy answer! Be stern. Most states allow you to go to court and ask the judge for an order to place him in the joint custody of the court. After granted, your son will be forced to take a drug test and the result will have must bigger legal ramifications. Again, most kids fold quickly when they realize this is now the real-deal. Most kids don’t want a judge taking over their life. (By the way, I was too frightened to do this with my daughter. I thought the ramifications would destroy her chances for becoming a normal, well-rounded adult with anything like this on her record. Boy was I wrong. I almost lost her. If I had to do it over again, knowing what I know now, it would be court. She lost two of her friends to addiction. She got lucky and survived.)
Finally, what if your son is 18? What if he is legal in most states, and he refuses to do anything you ask? Easy answer! Be stern! If he refuses your love, refuses your help, refuses your restriction for continuing to live under your roof in a safe environment, kick his ass out.
Now some parents balk at my suggestion to boot their son out of their home. They tell me, “He has no place to go.” Or better yet, “No, I can’t kick him out, he’ll only get worse.” All of the above comments and any other excuses you can drum up are an exercise in being a full blown moron. Kicking his ass to the street will save his life. One thing I know for certain, allowing him to live in your house and continue using drugs, bring you one step closer to attending his funeral.
#5 – Ask more questions
Teenage drug and alcohol abuse requires that you be a parent! Save your son’s life! And leave us your questions here. We’ll be happy to answer them personally and as promptly as we can.