Do you think your kids are hanging out with the wrong crowd? Is it possible they are hanging out with kids who are taking drugs or drinking alcohol? This is never an easy moment to confront. Emotions flare up. Blame is assigned. And it may be, in fact, too late to simply step in and sort all this out. What can you do about it?
First, understand that the threats are real and the numbers appear to be more alarming every day. There is an alarming rise in the use of opiates in the United States, evidenced by a two months stretch in early 2014 in which there were 13 overdose deaths in Cape Cod alone — and Cape Cod is not exactly the type of community known for rampant drug use (source: Axis Recovery).
Further, there is a startling probability that heroin use is on the rise because of a painkillers that the brain processes in ways similarly to the way it processes heroin are becoming harder to buy. That means, drugs with which society has some control — pain killers — are proving to be a stepping stone to drugs with which society has no control, like heroin.
For a parent, step one, of course, is to look at yourself and your family life. What is your own history with drugs and alcohol? What is the family’s history with substance abuse? What is being done about this?
There are children who manage to survive and somehow thrive in some of the most horrific childhoods imaginable, but these are rare, exceptional cases. For the most part, parents need to understand the sensitivity of children. They can pick up on the slightest odd vibrations when a parent is lying to them.
Be Honest and Be Real
You need to be honest and real with your children concerning drug and alcohol use. In the first place, almost every family has some issue with substance abuse, whether it involves alcohol, illicit drugs, pain killers or cigarettes.
The idea of being real involves consistency. Don’t hide your family’s substance abuse problems one day, then discuss them the next. Children at the earliest ages should be told the truth, even if the truth is age-appropriate.
Kids Require Supervision
The good old days of allowing children to roam free every afternoon after school have faded away. Children, it turns out, thrive in environments where there is structure, safety and expectations of good behavior and accomplishment.
I am surprised (often) by my own children who rate their teachers at school, just as children have done since the beginning of time. I hear again and again how the toughest teachers are the ones they enjoy the most.
This is because it’s the tough teachers who accomplish things and children, it turns out, respond when goals are achieved and results accomplished. Children don’t like teachers who are angry, but give them a teacher who can whip them into shape for a concert, a school musical or a football game, and they have the children’s undying admiration.
Where is the other crowd headed?
What are the consequences of addictions? The actual list is horrific and almost borders on surreal. Addictions literally affect every aspect of a person’s life.
Loss of Control
Perhaps the No. 1 problem with all addictions is the loss of control. Even cigarette smokers regret the point that nicotine seems to be in charge of their decisions, rather than themselves. This leads to a loss of self-esteem.
Not only do addictions subtract time from an otherwise productive life, but people with addiction issues tend to be less productive at work and lose out on opportunities for advancement. Just as damaging, addicts limit their own choices. Using a simple example, ask a cigarette smoker to go on a bicycle ride or a hike up a mountain and they find ways to opt out simply because it challenges their preference to smoke or their compromised physical endurance.
It is well known that alcoholics like to hang out with other alcoholics, because they do not challenge each others’ addictions. Addicts, in general, limit their social life to spend time with other addicts. Soon enough, addicts become isolated from mainstream society.
Just to use one example, alcohol travels through your body through your blood stream. This means that alcohol can attack every organ in the body – without exception. The brain, kidneys, liver, stomach, colon, mouth, throat or bladder – no body part is off the list.
It is well publicized that cigarettes are lethal, but it is often overlooked that they also limit the lifestyle of the smoker long before any lethal illness takes hold. Cigarettes are not only life killers, they are lifestyle killers – as are other drugs and alcohol.
How do you get away from this mess if addictions are already threatening your children?
The first thing to do is to turn to professional help. The recovery options in this country are growing in leaps and bounds each day. The treatment options are more varied, more sophisticated, more flexible and more effective than ever.
Almost every community has localized help that can refer a case to a more substantial treatment center if necessary. Make a phone call. Search the Internet. Talk to friends. Talk to counselors. Help is around the corner and this is not an issue that should be tackled alone.