I arrived home from a meeting the other night feeling very frustrated and disheartened...
Kathy O'Keefe, who is a friend of mine, facilitates an education and support group called WTF, which stands for Winning The Fight. Kathy started this group as a way to support the young people and parents she knew who were dealing with drug abuse in the Flower Mound area. She was not looking for something new to do with her time, but because her son Brett overdosed and died, she saw a great need to help other families dealing with drug addiction.
WTF has been a labor of love to Kathy's son's memory since 2010. WTF has helped many families and has grown in size over the past several years.
Which is wonderful, but for the fact that the problem of addiction in families keeps getting bigger.
I attended the meeting because I wanted to hear the presenter Kathy had promoted. Rick Rayl is a pharmacist who works at a nearby treatment facility, he spoke at length about current designer drugs. I have worked with many families who have teenagers (13-17) using some of these drugs (mainly K2/Spice) and I knew the information would be both interesting and very important. I was right.
As I said, by the end of the meeting I was feeling frustrated. Part of that feeling comes from understanding just how fast new drugs are being created and how we know for certain illegal drugs in general are never going away. However, adolescents are using these designer drugs because, for the most part, they cannot be detected on drug tests. And designer drugs are made with harmful chemicals which should not be consumed by the human body.
It is no secret many adolescents feel as if they are invincible. Which is not really their fault, because their brains aren't finished developing yet...in fact, they won't be fully developed until their mid-twenties. In addition, there are more drugs than ever to try these days and kids are experimenting with them at younger ages, so the opportunity for tragedy is amped up. It is a recipe for disaster for many, many families.
Because teenagers brains aren't fully able to predict the outcome of their behavior, especially when it is in an altered state, it falls to us as parents to do all we can to protect them, essentially from themselves.
Although I feel this is a steep mountain to climb, I [like Kathy] want to be a part of making a difference in the field of adolescent addiction.
At work my job includes talking with parents whose children are in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. Very often they are completely baffled as to how their child ended up on drugs. These are moms and dads from all areas, and all walks of life.
Based on these conversations, and in looking at my own parenting (I have a son who has been sober almost four years) I strongly feel the best way we can help our children stay away from drugs is to be involved in their lives. That means spending time with them, getting to know who they are without criticism, getting to know their friends, making sure you know where they are and who they are with, setting boundaries and keeping consistent rules. Swift, fair, and consistent consequences when needed. And developing a mutually respectful relationship with your children is key.
I also speak with many parents who feel like failures. I always let them know you cannot change what has already happened, you can only learn from here and work to do better everyday. I tell them never to give up on their child. But not to contribute to their destruction either.
I kinda feel like the parent cheerleader...I want to motivate moms and dads to do better because their family is worth fighting for!
We have got to find ways to slow down the pace of life and focus on the importance of the relationships in our home. I understand there are a million obstacles in the way, but if we don't get a rein on our families the damages will continue to leak into our communities and create even more serious destruction in the future.