What I’d Say to My Kids About Drugs
Though I don’t have kids, my personal experience more than qualifies me to write this. I have two kids in my life I consider nephews, who mean the world to me and a 20-year history of battling the demon of addiction.
Though I believe addiction and alcoholism is very much a genetic problem, this doesn’t mean anyone’s fate is pre-determined when it comes to substance abuse. What it does mean, is some are more susceptible to succumbing to it than others. However, if you never pick up, regardless of family history, you’ll never fall victim to it.
Part of the problem is, so much of what they teach you in school about drugs is wrong, least it was when I was a kid. They demonized Marijuana, via the D.A.R.E program and other propaganda. Our education system and parts of our society at large label Marijuana as the gateway drug, with the help of misinterpreted and forged statistics.
My biggest issue with this is Marijuana is so commonplace, eventually, most kids figure out for themselves it’s not the villain so many adults in their lives make it out to be. Speaking from my experience, once I realized so much of what I was taught about pot in school was more or less bullshit, how was I to believe what they told me about other drugs?
This is easy for me to say, being I don’t have kids, but where I’d start the conversation with my children about the topic would be based on complete honesty. It is my belief a big part of our drug problem in America comes down to a lack of communication and honesty.
We try to shelter our kids from certain truths about the world (and perhaps ourselves), but look at where it has gotten us. It’s left us with an opiate epidemic on our hands that I’m not sure there’s a real or practical solution to.
I would ask my kids what they were being taught about drugs in school and separate fact from fiction for them myself, as I see it. I was taught people who smoked pot were lazy burnt out and unemployed losers, yet by the time I was barely twelve I learned half my family members smoked, and none of them fit the stereotype of the image that was painted for me in the least.
My own Father smokes, which I learned on my own volition fairly young. This is a man who got up every morning and went to his accounting job, paid the bills on time, handled his business, all while doing his best to instill some decency in me and teach me what was right and what was wrong.
He was and still to this day is one of the most standup and intelligent people I know. Not only does he not fit the stereotype of what so many kids are taught about those who smoke marijuana, in many ways he openly defies it.
His biggest downfall was, he never figured out a way to talk to me about the uncomfortable but yet imperative things. He believed the stigma surrounding Marijuana himself I suppose, it’s simply how he was raised. He never learned how to have an open and honest conversation with me about it.
Though I don’t blame him for any of my actions or decisions in the least, an awkward but honest conversation about drugs as a whole could have saved me from some of the pitfalls, maybe. All I know is it’ll be my best plan of defense against drugs, if and when I do have kids of my own.
Not only would I tell them Marijuana isn’t the demon parts of our society make it out to be, but I’d also inform them it is used medicinally in the treatment of a wide variety of different ailments and illnesses. I’d teach them pot is not a gateway drug, and the only thing that could lead them to do drugs was their own poor decisions. My kids will understand the importance of accountability.
That being said, I’d do my best to make them understand how careful they have to be when choosing friends. You become who you surround yourself with, especially when you’re young and impressionable. I’d tell them who they do or don’t hang out with could be the determining factor in how their lives turn out.
Furthermore, I’d be uncomfortably honest about my history with real drugs. I’d disclose the fact drugs led me to such a rocky bottom, there was a time I didn’t want to live anymore. Though I don’t believe in the power of trying to “scare kids straight”, I’d share with them just how many of my friends growing up lost their lives to drugs. The ones who were “lucky” enough to not lose their lives as a direct result of doing drugs, either got clean and sober, primarily with the help of a twelve-step program — or are more or less in a gutter somewhere wishing they weren’t alive. Those are the three roads drugs lead to — jails, institutions, and death.
Nobody understands better than me anger will not deter kids from drinking or doing drugs. Punishing your teenager if and when they come home drunk one night, is not likely to stop them from going out and doing it again. I’d simply let my kids know alcoholism runs rampant on both sides of my half of the family and what long term alcohol use does to the human body and mind. Maybe sharing the fact there are bars in the neighborhood I grew up in as well as all over the country, that open up at 7 AM for people with a physical dependency on alcohol would help. Nobody grows up wanting to be that person.
More than anything else, I’d want my kids to know and fully understand there was no such thing as a problem or issue they couldn’t come to me or talk to me about. I was punished so often as a kid, all it ever did was stop me from being open and honest with my parents. There was no communication in my household, only mistakes I made my parents found out about in a round-a-bout way, and yelled at me and punished me for.
Spoiler alert: it never worked.
I’ll make sure my kids understand if they come home high or drunk, I’m going to be the first one to notice and bring it up to them. While I know firsthand anger and grounding them won’t be an effective strategy, it’d be my hope honest and open conversations will. There’s nothing my kids won’t be able to talk to me about, whether they’ll be willing to or not, is another story — but I’d never make them feel like they couldn’t.
There are no right or wrong approaches to how you talk to your kids about drugs and alcohol. The most important thing is that you do indeed talk about it. Be as honest as you possibly can be, give them your take and experience on it, whatever that may be. I can’t tell anyone how to parent, but it is my hope this piece helps even one parent help their kids avoid making all the same mistakes I did growing up.