The difficult and sensitive subjects of addiction and the war on drugs are hard enough to broach with adults; but when teenagers are concerned, it gets far harder. Parents live in fear of their children becoming involved with drugs – for good reason – but there are ways to talk to children and teenagers about drugs calmly and productively. Prevention is better than cure, therefore talking about these issues before they arise is sensible and proactive.
We spoke to moms who have dealt with the dark side of drugs, through their children becoming entangled in the web of addiction. Thankfully, their children were able to recover, and these moms now want to help other parents prevent this from happening.
Anne*, 49, Philadelphia
My daughter was always a diligent student and very bright throughout her entire childhood, which earnt her a place at a prestigious university. My advice is to always talk to children about drugs before they go away to university or college – because there, my daughter started partying and got in with the wrong crowd, dragged into a world of cocaine and heroin.
I’m ashamed that I didn’t know anything the situation was until I got a call from one of her friends in the middle of the night saying that she had been hospitalized for an overdose. I was shocked and horrified to learn of her drug problems then. I immediately got her admitted to a rehab facility, which she hated and discharged herself from.
She ended up having three unsuccessful rehab stays before getting clean this year, by attending a rehab in New Jersey that finally worked for her. It has been a tough few years, but she sincerely wants to be free from drugs now and has gone back to (a different) university, away from the terrible memories and influences of the last.
Melanie*, 57, Chicago
I left my alcoholic husband when my children were young in an effort to protect them and hopefully ensure that they didn’t fall down this path themselves – but I was always worried about my son. He was very sensitive and upset about his father’s absence. I was always open and honest with my children about why we don’t live with him anymore, but my son was angry and withdrawn in his early teens.
In his late teens, he began smoking marijuana with friends and one time got arrested – I recognized the signs and knew he was going the same way as his father. I even enlisted his father to talk to him and help him to change, but this didn’t work. He was using marijuana daily, dropped out of school and was routinely in trouble with the law.
Eventually, he had a car accident driving while intoxicated. This shocked him, and he finally asked for help, which I readily obliged to do. He started psychotherapy and is now a happy, stable adult with a great job and a lovely girlfriend. I’m so glad he managed to turn his life around.
Sally*, 48, Sacramento
The best thing a mom can do is to be clear she is supportive of her child and will do anything to help them – this is what I tried to do when my son was kicked out of school for using drugs after becoming depressed. I was firm but fair, and as we couldn’t afford drugs counseling demanded that he had to stay home if he couldn’t be trusted to not do drugs. He was reluctant but ultimately compliant; as he had seen his cousin get into hard drugs and tragically die years before.
The whole family and our church community rallied round to help my son, which I am eternally grateful for. With the help of Jesus, he got clean and has not touched drugs for 18 months. He’s gone back to school and is getting grades at the top of the class. I’m so proud and believe that without a supportive community around him he would have deteriorated and not be with us now.
*The mothers’ names are changed in this article to protect the identities of their children.