One of my favorite photos of myself is a photograph taken on Christmas morning when I was still a child, and in it, I am beaming at the camera, smiling from ear to ear, clutching a large stuffed animal (with whom I would become inseparable for at least a year), utterly oblivious as to what the future might bring. Now, I can attest to this because I know -- with certain conviction -- that the little boy in that photo had no idea he would grow up to become a junkie who would be forced to wander the streets of New York's infamous "Alphabet City," night after night, in search of the drugs that I thought I so desperately needed to survive.
But, I can also tell you -- again with certain conviction -- that my parents also had no idea what was going to happen to their son.
Today, in America, there is no question that, if you have a child in high school, your child will be exposed to drugs. That's a given, not an opinion. And, although many parents have no problem navigating the treacherous waters of The Sex Talk (we all have a responsibility to educate our children about sex and what that means), most of us cringe when it comes to talking to our kids -- honestly and purposefully -- about drugs. In my parents' defense, 40 years ago, a parent would never DREAM of having that kind of talk with their kids; but today, that talk is mandatory.
And you cannot have The Drug and Alcohol Talk unless you yourself are informed and educated.
Because today's kids are going to be more street smart and scene savvy unless you, yourself, used drugs or alcohol. Now, I'm saying this to the parents only: If you grew up in the '70s or '80s, chances are you, yourself, used or experimented with drugs. I understand wholeheartedly the need to keep this part of your history a secret from your kids, but you can also use this to cut through the chase (so to speak) when getting real with your kids about whatever's going on in the world. Because it's important that they know on the front end that you aren't stupid.
Not only might your kid be using marijuana or cocaine, or ecstacy, but they can also be buying bath salts or salvia in any of the head shops that are, unfortunately, usually strategically located near high schools in every major city in this country. Which means that we have to assume that today's youth are so committed to getting high and checking out that we have to be vigilant if we want to help them not descend into years of drug and alcohol insanity.
But where do you go to get educated? If you're reading this blog, this is a good start. The next step is to dedicate some time to really getting on the Internet or down to a public library and getting educated. But for now, let's just take a look at the signs your child or loved one is flirting with danger...
- If your child isolates and is in their room with the door closed and sleeps at odd hours of the day while being up all night, something might be amiss.
The world we live in can be a harsh, cruel, and unforgiving place. Drug dealers aren't going to practice restraint because your child is underaged or innocent. Like the cigarette companies in the '80s, they are going to target our loved ones and groom new consumers for their products, and there is nothing we can do about that; it's going to happen whether we like it or not.
But we can unite as a community and do what we can to not provide such a target-rich environment. And the heart of this strategy, I feel, is the fortification of the family unit. If you can do what is necessary to protect the integrity of your family -- if you can educate your children in a way that helps them make good decisions -- then you've already won half the battle.
Which puts you that much closer to winning the war.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.
For more by Dr. Howard Samuels, click here.
For more on addiction and recovery, click here.