Over the last year I have been making an effort to speak with parent and student groups about the effects of addiction on a person and all of those associated with a person who is suffering from addiction.
While my son was actively using drugs, my activity concerning this subject irritated him. It made him uncomfortable and angry. For some reason he did not want me speaking to groups. Maybe it made him feel embarrassed or ashamed.
For nearly six months my son has been working on his recovery and is not using. For me this is quite an accomplishment to see a heroin addict make such a huge turnaround in his life. It’s hard to believe that only six months ago he was speed-balling and his mother and I were discussing the fatal outcome of those engaged in this activity. Hope springs eternal.
Recently I was asked to speak to students at our local high school about the effects of drugs on young people. When I told my son I was going to speak he asked if he could go with me and speak to them first-hand about what drugs have done to him. This is a HUGE step for anyone in recovery. Facing their addiction head on and in front of a group takes courage.
We spoke to about 50 students that were in the age group of 14-15 years old. My son is only 22. When he began to talk and answer questions about drugs and his addiction those students were riveted by him. You could almost feel an electric connection between him and those students. His message was direct and in a language they understood. He showed them scars on his arms caused by infections from dirty needles. He talked about what it is like in jail, going through detox in a cell. He spoke of all his lost opportunities with college, jobs and relationships. Maybe his most powerful statement in response to a question about why he started using was, “I started because I wanted to be cool, this is not cool, this is the worst thing you could ever do in your life. Using leads to becoming addicted and I can’t even describe how horrible that is.”
This format of an experienced young adult speaking to a group of teens is the most powerful weapon I have seen in waking up young people to the risks of drugs and alcohol. Let’s face it, I’m just another old guy telling these kids not to use drugs, but when someone in their age group stands there and tells a personal story with all the graphic details — that is called bringing out the heavy artillery.
By sharing his personal story he helped the kids connect the hazards of drug usage. Being close to their age and someone who has “been there done that” I believe deeply resonated with them, inspiring them to think differently about the consequences of the choices they make.
Education about the dangers of drug and alcohol use is all about being relatable. No matter if it is parents, relatives, friends, professionals or peers, the key to helping your child fight the pressure to use drugs is education. Give them a way out of those pressure situations. Do not be naive and believe that your child will not be exposed to the opportunity to use drugs. Every single young person out there has to make a decision about whether or not to try using drugs or drinking. Parents, take the offensive; do not wait until the monster has entered your home. Slaying this monster is about educating its prey, before he has a chance to attack.
By the way, I want every person that reads this to know; I cannot remember a time when I was more proud of my son. I stood up at the end of the presentation in front of all of those kids and told them with my voice cracking how proud I was of him to come speak with me.
Editor’s Note: Like any relationship, your relationship with your child changes over time. For ways to talk to your child about drugs at every age, please visit our Parent Tool Kit.