At the risk of sounding like a one~dimensional broken record, and instead of writing about the more humorous aspects of our very brief spring break vacation, I am going to write about marijuana this week.
Two reasons for this: First, I do not feel very "funny" after spending more hours than I care to remember driving north from San Antonio in traffic on I-35 that was INSANE! Second, I ask God each week to use my writing to share whatever message He feels is important. [No, I am not kidding]. And, no matter how much fun we had this weekend (and no matter how easy it would be to yuck it up about how gross the hotel was that we stayed in, the great time we had catching up with family, and the silliness we shared at the Chinese restaurant Saturday night), my heart just hasn't been able to let go of the fact that I feel compelled to share with you how much I hate pot.
Though I want to qualify that statement. Because I don't want people to think I am narrow-minded and cannot see any value at all in marijuana. I DO understand marijuana can help people with certain medical conditions. It has been shown to be beneficial, I think we should continue to research how it can best be utilized for epilepsy, those undergoing cancer treatment and for any other relevant medical conditions. In pill form.
And, before I go any further, let me go on record as saying I have smoked pot. As a teenager. A handful of times. There was a reason it was only a handful of times, I just didn't care for the way it made me feel. (I have a problem with being out of control).
Nonetheless, the marijuana of the mid-80s is not the same as the marijuana smoked today. And, although I have absolutely no first-hand experience smoking today's marijuana, I can tell you the effect it is having on teenagers because I have been sitting in a room full of them for a few months now...and THIS is the insight I want to share with you.
Most of the kids I work with started smoking pot by the age of ten. Some report as young as eight, some as old as thirteen. They were introduced to pot by older siblings, cousins, friends...most of them never gave it a second thought when they were asked, "wanna hit?"
The kids tell me it has nothing to do with peer pressure. In fact, they say if you don't want to take your turn "in the circle" the general consensus is that there is more for those that DO want to partake. The kids I have encountered continued to use, even when taking a hit caused them to choke, cough, puke. Overall, they like the feeling they get, so they do it again. And again. Most of the kids I work with have been smoking several times a week for 4-5 years now.
They will all say they "don't have a problem". (Which is amazing how that works when they've all landed in the treatment room with me). "It's a natural herb Ms. Kim", "it's legal in some states Ms. Kim". "No one has ever gotten in a car accident because of weed Ms. Kim". "No one has ever died from smoking weed Ms. Kim." Part of my job is to try and get them to connect the dots.
This can be challenging enough with a teenager who has NOT been smoking weed for years....
Most of the teenagers I work with have landed in truancy court, which inevitably leads to a drug test, which then becomes a drug and alcohol assessment. When the assessment indicates there is a drug problem, there is an 8-week intensive-outpatient treatment program. NINETY-FIVE PERCENT of the kids I have worked with claim their "DOC" (drug of choice) is marijuana. But it's not a problem.
The reason they don't go to school? They don't feel like it. Or, they have over slept one too many times (because they couldn't sleep at night so they got stoned in the middle of the night then could not rouse themselves to get on the bus). It's the judges fault they are in treatment. It's the school's fault. It's their parents fault. It's always somebody else's fault.
I know exactly what you want to say at this point, "Where are the parents?!" Some of them are already at work and expect their child to get up and to school on their own. Some of them are so wrapped up in their own personal problems they don't have the energy to fight with their child to get up and go to school. Some of them just chalk up the "off" behavior to adolescence (especially if it is their first go around with a teenager), you know "kids will be kids". Each week when I meet with the parents and grandparents who show up for our support group, I hear stories of how blind-sided they are about their child's drug use.
It sounds like a really simple solution to just get rid of the substance, right? I am not an expert, I have a mere THREE months of experience working with teenagers in outpatient treatment, yet it is not hard to see this problem with marijuana has a pattern. The earlier they begin to smoke the bigger the problems. And the harder it is for them to see they have any problem at all.
Some of them swear they won't try anything else. SOME of them won't. Others in the room have already moved on to other drugs...like meth and heroin. Some are very attracted by the money that can be made selling it. Why would you go out and get a job at McDonald's making minimum wage when you can make so much more selling dope?
So what can you do as a parent to help ensure your child doesn't end up in a treatment room with someone named "Ms. Kim"?
1. Supervise your child. (This is not the same as helicopter parenting). Set and consistently keep rules and boundaries and consequences.
2. Spend time with your child (this does not include the time it take to get to and from any one of the thousands of sports practices or games they have each week). You have to have regular conversation with your child to get to know who they are. What are they interested in? Ask them to share their music, talk about their friends. What are their dreams and goals? If they won't share, keep trying. Ideally these things I am suggesting have taken place all of their lives. But if that is not the case, it is NEVER too late to begin. You will be met with resistance, but DO NOT give up. YOU ARE THE ADULT!
3. Expect your child to respect you, at the same time respect your child.
4. Show them with your words and, even more importantly, your actions that it is important to help others. The world is bigger than just what you can get out of it. There is a lot of inner gratification to helping others.
5. Do not bail them out of situations they have gotten into as a result of bad choices. These are called natural consequences, and they work wonders.
6. Don't ever give up on your child, but do not enable them either.
7. Keep your head out of the sand and in the air. Smell the air regularly...ask questions, search spaces, stay in charge. Trust me when I say kids find a million places to hide their drugs in your house.
8. When you suspect something don't deny, get help.
The problem with getting rid of pot is that there would be something else to take it's place. So it isn't the substance that is the problem. In my opinion it is the frightening lack of concern about themselves and the consequences that might take place that needs addressing. There is such a lack of respect for life by so many teens nowadays. And it is no wonder when they listen to music that promotes violence, not to mention movies (has anyone seen the trailer for Spring Breakers? OMG!)