A recovering addict wrote an email message to me. This is part of it: I started drinking at twelve and doing light drugs at thirteen, heavier drugs after that. My school was the perfect place because many parents and teachers didn’t recognize drug use when it was right in front of them. I didn’t make the decision to get myself together until midway through my junior year and it was another student and her mom who helped me through it.
My personal reflection on the passage above offering my thoughts today: Many kids experiment with alcohol and drugs at an early age. Jeff started smoking pot and drinking during his middle school years. Some research documents that at least fifty percent of children under the age of fourteen have tried marijuana at least once. This doesn’t mean they’ll become addicts, but it does mean that young children are experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
There are at least two important messages that seem clear: 1. Education is critical for teachers, parents and children, and 2. When the child, who is using drugs, decides for himself that he wants to ‘get himself together,’ someone needs to stay close. We adults need to recognize the red flags of drug abuse and offer a helping and compassionate hand.
Today’s Promise: Denial comes in many ways, but I can learn to recognize the signs of drug use. I will educate myself and I will be vigilant. More importantly, I’ll talk with my child in an open and honest way.405
Many kids do experiment, and some parents assume they will outgrow it. Unfortunately it’s a gamble and so difficult to undo the addiction.
Dear Cathy, You are so correct. Jeff started with alcohol and marijuana and I thought, “Everybody does this. It’s not so bad.” But as he says, “What started as a party ended as a sandstorm and I couldn’t get out.” Thanks.
Dear Ms. Cataldi,
Hey i wrote you a few weeks back. The 23 year old from Calvert. Im sitting here reading the post from the “addict” that got clean in high school. As a recovering addict myself, I believe that in many ways that yes the youth today has easier access to using but I do not believe that you can be addicted at such a young age. I believe we are addicted to something more. I think what especially parents need to see is that we so called experiment to fit in. To show off. To be the cool kid. And going through school one would want to keep the reputation as the kid that knows how to party because they see their “friends” everyday and does not want to be seen as a poser or whatever. I believe it is when an individual is seperated from a norm and still has a desire to act a certain way even though they do not need to. I am having hell trying to word this I hope you can see where I am trying to take this email. I was doing some research on how drugs impact a developing brain and how it stunts brain growth all the way up to age 25 even. When I got clean I was 23 and still had alot of growing up to catch up on. And today I see alot in the youth these days and I am sure it has always been there but the lack of sense of self, the indecisiveness, the desire to be a part of something bigger. The pursuit of friends and populartity. I am not saying that kids using at 13 like the one posted was ever an addict when they decided to get clean. Maybe they just woke up to realize they were messing up. Youth are very impressionable and I think that there is a whole different type of addiction manifesting itself in todays youth. Yes drugs and alcohol play a huge role but I believe that it is an addiction for acceptance among peers, especially older ones today. I was just curious as to see what you think of this seeing as you went through this whole ordeal with jeff and maybe initially this is how we started using and then over time as we realized drugs did not make us friends it makes us happy. Sorry this is so long but for some reason i feeel compelled to contact you because my story is jeff’s. My mom teaches in Calvert and I have grown up here. I run from myself as Jeff did. I feel like we have the same story and with not alot of people to talk to you I think maybe I can seek your wisdom. Thanks so much for hearing me out Ms.Cataldi. Hope you had a nice Valentines Day. Talk to you soon.
Sincerely, Zachary S
Thanks for reaching out and for writing. You express yourself beautifully and I hear you and agree with you. Jeff has said pretty much the same thing: “Things started innocently with pot and beer. It was a party and it was lots of fun. But what started as a party ended as a sandstorm and I couldn’t get out.” He still says that his early years of drug abuse were some of the most fun years of his life. He looks back on his time in Baltimore when he had just graduated from high school and was ready to go to college. He lived a crazy life, but in his own way he loved it and has fond memories of those years and his friends during that time.
Some kids can stop. Jeff couldn’t. Once Jeremy said, “Bro, just stop.” Jeff responded, “It’s all about going to the next level.” Jeff and Jeremy were different: one was an addict; one was not.
Addiction is confounding and parents need to hear what you and Jeff say. Kids often start out ‘playing’ with drugs: it’s all cool. That is until it becomes a way of life and then everything turns upside-down.
Thanks, Zachary. Stay strong and keep helping others. In order to keep it, we gotta give it away. Libby
Today I finished reading your book, Stay Close and I was crying as I read it. Thank you for sharing your experience. As I read it, I remembered some familiar experiences you had as my experience, too. I have 2 daughthers and my younger one is currently smoking weed and today, I just found some alcohol bottles in her closet. Have tried to send her to counselling and eventually she refused to go. She has about 1 week to go before HS Graduation and right now, my goal is to just have her finish HS and then I can let her go. You have given me the courage to let her go — but to stay close. She blames her dad for what she is going through just like how your boys were with Tim. I feel that if he had been more of a father figure and controlled the household better, we would not be in this situation. But i also allowed it – i allowed him to concentrate on his work and did not demand that he spend time with the daughters. I just hope and pray she does not progress to another level of drugs. I, too, have learned to talk less and pray more. Again, thank you for sharing your story.
Thanks for reaching out to me. Your comments brought back memories of Jeff at that age – ready to graduate from high school. At that time, he was in big trouble with drugs, although I didn’t want to admit it. I also wanted to blame Tim for being passive and not involved. In the end, I discovered that blaming anyone (even myself) didn’t help anyone.
You might want to attend an Al-Anon meeting or two for support through these times. I found a lot of strength in Al-Anon. I also learned a lot and this helped me help Jeff. Information is a big part of the process.
My love to you and yours. Let’s keep each other and our children in our prayers.