Whereas some parents are pushing for more draconian measures like drug-sniffing dogs (see last week’s column) to keep drugs out of OPRF High School, I support a remedy recommended by cooler heads: Talk to your kids.
Since this is a touchy subject (judging by the comments last week’s column generated), I thought I should set an example. So here’s my letter to OPRF students:
You are precious to us (no matter how much we yell at you). And you aren’t the only ones struggling with drugs. Some of us wrestle with our caffeine routine, some with nicotine, alcohol, anti-depressants, pain medicine. We live in an addictive society and all of us are vulnerable to developing dependency on any or all of the above. We hope you can benefit from what we’ve learned.
Do yourself a big favor and stay away from nicotine. It is deeply addictive. I’ve seen plenty of adults — people I care about — who quit, then go back, then quit, then go back. Smoking kills thousands every year. For those it doesn’t kill, it can be a life sentence. There are already too many prisons. Don’t construct one of your own.
A healthy respect for the influence of alcohol is also highly advised. Some people are particularly susceptible to alcohol addiction, and you won’t know if you’re one of them until you’re hooked. Even those who drink moderately need to monitor themselves. How much, how often — it’s easy to fool yourself. Drinking can set you back and has the potential to ruin your life. I’ve seen the results. Don’t let it happen to you.
Some drink to relax. Some use it as a social lubricant. It can be pleasant, but just as easily it becomes a crutch. If you drink only for the buzz, if you don’t know how to have a good time when you’re sober, you’ve started down the path to dependency.
You have to be honest with yourself and not everyone is capable of that. Alcoholics are very good at fooling themselves and not very good at fooling others.
Too many adults “self-medicate.” There’s an old saying that anyone who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client. Likewise, anyone who self-medicates has a fool for a patient.
I drink wine in social settings and sometimes with dinner, but only occasionally because good wine is expensive and cheap wine isn’t really worth drinking. It’s more about the taste than the buzz.
In college, I tried marijuana, and for several years I used it, as they say, “recreationally.” What it does to your brain makes you not terribly functional, so if you get high before or during the school day, it’s time to do some serious soul-searching.
I know what marijuana does for you and what it does to you. I found it to be a case of rapidly diminishing returns. The payoff wasn’t worth the price. At some point, it became obvious I was using it to avoid facing the challenges in my life, so I stopped. It was holding me back. I haven’t used marijuana in over 30 years. Saying no really isn’t that hard if you care enough about yourself. And if you don’t care enough about yourself, you should. You’re worth it. In fact, you’re precious to us.
I never tried anything “harder” than marijuana, and now I’m really glad I didn’t. Approaching life with a clear head, it turns out, is its own reward.
My advice is to steer clear of drugs. If you don’t take my advice and choose to experiment anyway, then move on as soon as you can. Drugs will keep you from getting where you want to go in life, and getting where you want to go is challenging enough without extra roadblocks.
If you’ve become dependent on any drug, get help. It doesn’t mean you’re a loser or a bad person. Everyone needs help from time to time. Don’t be afraid to ask. Better now than later.
Life is good. It really is. But we need our wits for it. You get to the good stuff by getting past the bad. Dependency and addiction are forms of self-imposed slavery. Don’t become your own jailer.
You’re better than that.
Yes, you are.