Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Adoption Thoughts: Drugs and Your Teenager

I have a confession.  It's shocking and startling in this day and age, and probably for many almost unbelievable however it is true.  Ready?

I have never done any sort of illegal drug.  Ever.  Not once.   In fact, I have never even smoked a single cigarette.  Not one. 

My teenage angst consisted of taking one or two sips of a cooler before dumping them out in my friend's garden and recording "secular" music onto a cassette tape. 

Drugs never even tempted me. Ever.  Smoke made me cough and the people on drugs were losers.  I didn't need that to have fun or dull the pain.  And so I managed to navigate my youth relatively unscathed. 

And honestly, this is the life I would want for my boys  but my boys are growing up today, not twenty years ago and their world is almost baffling to me in it's differences.  The boys are of the age where their access and exposure to drugs is almost daily.  My oldest attends a high school of 900 students.  If he wanted drugs he most certainly could have them.  My second son has friends with siblings that both deal and use.  My third son had a child dealing pot in his SIXTH GRADE classroom last year.

My lack of experience or education does not mean that there is any escaping that drugs have already touched our lives deeply.  Our reality is simply that I became their mother because of drugs.  Or, I suppose, because of an addiction to drugs.  Not mine  (Advil anyone?) but others.

Because of drugs my sons lost their first family and their first country.  Their community.  Their connections.

Because of drugs, their biological father will spend the vast majority of his life incarcerated.  Their biological mother will not know them as the boys they are today or see them become men tomorrow.

Because of drugs our family grows today.

And so I have to educate my sons about drugs and addictions and the costs and the pressures.  And I educate them about genetic predispositions to addiction.

I hate it.  I hate the judgement that might be read into my words, the labels that must be placed on their family of birth; the extremely clear discussions of personal choice and responsibility, tempered by a biological reality of addiction. 

Their reality is not my reality but their reality IS my responsibility.  I MUST educate them because their genetics demand I do.

"Experimentation" is not an option when trying it once might result in a life time of addiction.  And so I educate them, and read to them, and honestly, do my very best to scare them away from that which would ever try to hold them captive in its destructive vortex because I intend to break the icey grip of the cycle of addiction that has stolen so much from my sons and their first family. 

Is that realistic?  Are my expectations fair?

How do you approach talking about drugs with your kids?

How do you plan on approaching talking about drugs with your kids if addiction is a genetic reality in your family or in their family of birth?  


Andy said...

Great post, and something that I think we sometimes forget about - the genetic predisposition to addiction.

At only 7, the idea of drugs has not come up yet but cigarettes has. So far he is very adamant against them, to the point that I've had to stop him from berating strangers walking down the street who are smoking!

My plan as he gets older? turn to my wise friends like you for advice! Thanks for leading the way.

Anonymous said...

I talk about it all the time. How alcoholism runs in the family, how drugs, alcohol and nicotine effect the teenage brain. (I am still a nicotine addict. I started at 11, and quit at 26, but to this day cigarette smoke evokes a longing.)Nothing really is a taboo subject in my house. Of course, this is from my biological family. I do not have the loaded responsibility of approaching this subject with children I have adopted. This is much more tricky. I counsel adoptive parents to say that the birthparents made some bad choices, and that, coupled with genetics and age, resulted in addiction.

Brenda Romanchik

SustainableFamilies said...

Yeah I was raised with lot's of drugs are bad messages. But I thought it was cool. I must confess. Dare videos make me go.... ooooo that looks like fun.

We had an ex addict talk to our class and I thought, wow, such interesting experiences! Cool, I want to try that and then quit and talk about all the cool things I've done.

I didn't have a relationship with my aparents so as a teen I just wanted to go be with my people.

Drug people.

I too came from drugs and back to drugs I went.

I happen to be really lucky that I didn't get stuck on any drugs. I didn't even like any drugs. I liked (and still like) caffiene and nicotine. Alcohol, makes me sick, pot makes me have panic attackes, hallucinogens--out of the question how f-ing scary,

and the hard drug I tried (the white powder) I didn't feel anything until I kept doing more and more until I overdosed.

It has negative zero appeal. But it was really interesting to experience what the world of people on lot's of drugs was like.

I don't really regret it. I had to know.

As a parent I don't really think you can maintain any position other than that there is a huge risk and it could result in genuine suffering.

My mom quit using drugs when she was still a teen (actually before I was born) (Although probably not before I was concieved.

She met my biodad in AA. Meaning to a degree... I exist because of addiction. And I'm happy to exist.

Understanding biologically the was addiction works will be an invaluable tool for your kids.

Who knows they may never expirement, that would be great! But some kids just have to. And knowing that any form of repetitive use even if once a week, is the way addictions are formed.

Drinking early in adolescents/teen years damages the brain A LOT. And the affects are greater than on adults since teen brains are still developing.

Try to incorporate a sense of compassion for the mechanics of addiction. If deep down you think addicts are "losers" it's something to think about.

When kids are involved it's normal to have some negative emotions about someone continuing their addiction instead of getting it together for their kids and that's not entirely bad.

Forgiveness is helpful.

Jenny said...

As a mom to child born with drug and alcohol exposures, I so hear your pain. Jason is still young though and hasn't been around actual drugs and dealing yet.

But yeah, that biological connection to addiction scares the crap out of me.

For us, I don't worry so much about labels yet. We talk about choices and how all of them have consequences, good and bad. Jason is struggling with so much this year and so much of it we can trace right back to the way his neurology was changed.

We've been very honest with him about, while its sad, his birthmom made some choices that affected the way his brain learns and thinks. Sometimes he is angry about this, some times he feels sad for her, and a lot of the time, he is sad for himself because his life is so much harder.

Flora said...

These are some great thoughts...and questions! My Dad passed away due to Liver disease that was induced by alcoholism. His 2 brothers are recovering/trying to recover alcoholics, and I have a sister who is alcohol "dependant" (the polite way of saying she is one step way from being an alcoholic) at 24. To say that genetics plays a factor is very much evident in my family, and for a time I let the genetic side of things unnerve me. The main thing is making sure that myself (and your boys) am communicating properly. My dad, uncles and sister, have a poor ability to communicate...they bottle up feelings, they do not talk about or share their pain. Along with stressing the negative side affects of drug and alcohol use, the main thing is to ensure that they have a safe place to share, and that they are sharing. People escape to addiction for just that, an escape, and the questions we would ask my dad are, "what are you trying to escape from?" and to talk to us about those things, and he would not. You seem to be a fairly effective communicator :) I highly doubt you would not try and instill the same trait in your sons :)
btw. The genetic thing still freaks me out too for my kids. I am long pased worrying about it for myself (I couldn't bottle my feelings if I tried) But I don't know what it will be like for them, and my genes run throug their veins too!


birthmothertalks said...

That is a very interesting topic. I grew up around pot and just the mention of it makes me think of the things my Mom did. I personally don't think pot is that bad, but the things she did because she knew it was against the law. For example, she made me hide it on me for her once. I could go on, but I won't.

Veronica said...

I have talked about the importance of honouring the body God has given you. That abusing it in any way is dishonouring Him. (Also that we would not financially support the vasts amount of money their sports cost us if they abuse their body - their most important piece of equipment). I am sure the boys have witnessed what drugs do to certain people, who are using them in their school, who are the dealers, etc...and so far they have chosen to be clean!

Lala's world said...

I think that just keeping the communication open and knowing they can come to you with anything is a huge hurdle overcome right there!!
I have a sister who has struggled with drugs for as long as I can remember...that kept me far away from them! sometimes a real example is enough to scare them straight.
The biological side of it is something completely else and I think prayer and more prayer is the only key!