Let me start with my story so that you can understand where I am coming from. First, I have to give a disclaimer. I was taught to be careful when disclosing information about my past as it might give license for people to justify their actions. Sort of a “Well Robbie went through it so can I” mentality. I think the readers of this post know better than that so please do not misinterpret my story as license. Secondly, I am not sure why I am telling all of you this now as many of you are finding this out for the first time. I guess because I have seen a few of my own youth struggle and have heard of so many others that I feel it is probably time to share my story. I have been ashamed of my past and have told very few people but now I am no longer ashamed because the past is what has made me into the man I am right now. In the words of Paul:
For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. (1 Cor. 15:9-10).
I hope this post (albeit long) will help you if your child is using drugs or if you are using drugs and are reading this. I certainly did not get mixed-up heavy into drugs but nonetheless…
I was in the sixth grade when I first tried marijuana.
Let that sink in a bit.
I was 12 years old. Some neighborhood buddies and I had skipped school and we had gone into the woods when a guy pulled out this little bag filled with what looked like grass clippings to me. I remember he pulled out this weird looking pipe and put the “grass clippings” into this pipe and inhaled as he lit it. The stuff smelled like body odor with a hint of the smell when one burns leaves. It was my turn to take a “hit” from the pipe. I inhaled and coughed my brains out. I felt nothing… My friends were acting like idiots while I felt nothing.
The next time I tried it was when I was in the 8th grade. My buddy and I went to the top of a hill by the elementary school I attended and I tried it again. Only this time I felt something. I felt good. I felt relaxed. It was amazing. They tell you “Nothing beats the feeling of your first high” and you really don’t understand what that means until you experience it. From that moment on, I was hooked.
I would smoke on and off maybe once or twice a week but I remember longing for the moments where I would be able to smoke weed the next time. After my 8th grade year I moved to Chattanooga and I thought maybe my bad times were behind me but sometimes your past catches up with you and you find the same people just in a different context. I continued smoking on and off. I started attending a Christian high-school and I thought my past was behind me.
I met some Christians who smoked weed as well and my past was not behind me.
The last time I smoked weed was the fall of 1998. I met this girl whose father was a youth minister and I became a Christian and suddenly weed was not important to me. I am not sure if I was addicted to it because I usually did it with other people and it was more social for me. But I did like it. I could share countless stories of staying up at night, running from the police, my parents finding out and all sorts of other stories. I tried LSD once and drank some alcohol but weed was my drug of choice. I did it to escape. I did it because it felt good. I did it because my friends did it.
Shortly after that, I received the news that one of my best friends growing up (who I smoked with) overdosed and died from drug use. I never got to say goodbye.
I was walking in San Francisco this past weekend leaving a Giants-Braves game and I caught a whiff of weed someone was smoking among the crowd. Even almost 15 years without touching the stuff my body had tingles and my mind traced back to those many days.
So why this post? Why my story? I hope to give you advice on what to do based on experience with what my parents did but also watching and learning from others.
HOW TO HELP YOUR TEEN…OR HOW HOW TO HELP YOU.
First off, don’t panic. I saw a stat that said that teen marijuana use is actually more than teen cigarette use. I know that your child using drugs is difficult and somewhat hard to fathom but your child needs your careful, objective and loving guidance and that takes some discernment and patience. I knew of a guy whose parents sent him off to rehab because he had tried some weed. Maybe there was more to the story but it seems it would have been better for them to discern then to panic and make rash decisions. That does not mean minimize what they have done but don’t maximize it either.
Secondly, understand this could be a long road. Depending on their drug (mine was small in comparison) they could be in for a long road to recovery. Especially if meth, heroine, crack, cocaine and other highly addictive drugs are involved. It takes some patience, love and support to walk them through this. Remember, you are wrestling against evil and dark forces and every part of them does not want you to win. Seek the Lord’s counsel and help.
Thirdly, trust has to be earned. They broke trust when they started using drugs and it has to be earned and gained in order for them to have certain privileges. So the questioning of who they are talking to, where they are going, what are the text messages, let me see the Facebook, what did you do at school, and others are legitimate exercises to learn and earn trust.
Fourth, context is key to help. What I mean by that is what helped me was finding the right friends and purging myself of old ones. As harsh as that sounds I knew that if I was going to be clean I had to remove the unclean context. They were close friends but I knew that they would find new ones and maybe down the road when I was more mature and the time was right we could be friends again. I don’t understand why people who struggle with drugs go back to their druggie friends. That’s like saying you hate cold weather and want to rid yourself of it so you buy a house in Fairbanks, Alaska. Makes no sense. Context is key.
Fifth, find a support group, specifically one that is Christian. Ideally your home church network should be that support group but you also need to network among those parents who are struggling in a similar manner. Nobody wants to be alone and it helps to have fellow travelers who have been there and done that and can share the wounds and the victories.
Sixth, love your child unconditionally. They may scream at you. They may run away. They may struggle for years. They may cost you thousands of dollars. They may do unthinkable amounts of evil. But you love them. Unconditionally as Christ loved you. That doesn’t mean they go undisciplined or that they drain your savings but it means you relentlessly pursue them until they live a life of glorification to God. Sometimes we lose the ones we love the most but more often than not teenagers find healing and sobriety from relentless parents and a relentless God.
I hope this helps and has encouraged and strengthened you. What would you add?