Is there hope for teens and drug use?

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Answered by: Dan, An Expert in the Drug Use Among Teenagers Category
Addiction: Victim vs. Victor

Is there hope for my teen and his drug use?

The ongoing issue of teens and drug use must be addressed. Addiction sneaks up on you. Regardless of the addiction – from drugs, to gambling, to over-eating, to sex – nobody plans on becoming an addict. As a song title from the Christian band “Casting Crowns” says so accurately, it's a “slow fade.” The most threatening aspect to an addiction, especially with teens and drug use, surprisingly, is not the actual drug itself. Certainly, continued use of a drug leads to devastating results but that is the result of the drug – not the addiction. Sadly, the most threatening thing about addition is how the inner person – the soul – is transformed into believing they have no value, no meaning, no purpose. The guilt, whether revealed or not, settles down deep inside of a person and is only momentarily appeased when the drug of choice comes to the rescue, setting in motion the “slow fade” spiral that finds it harder and harder to find release from the chains.

At this point the addict must face the reality – and choice - of living either as a victim or a victor. The issue really is not the particular drug that is being abused. The issue is the inner person's choice, for a variety of reasons, to arrive at the conclusion that they are not worthy of living victorious but are, instead, destined to living life as a victim. The parent of the addict finds themselves asking, "Is there hope for my teen and his drug use?" Kyle is a 22-year old man who is a living testimony to where his life choices have brought him thus far. His story is not unique. In middle school Kyle was teased for his body shape. He was not fat but he did have extra “baby fat” that had not yet developed and this left him with extra weight in parts of his body that were embarrassing. As he entered high school his body transformed and while the teasing stopped, his memory of those cruel remarks remained embedded in his soul.

Kyle grew into a well-built, attractive young man and entered high school with more confidence. At some point in his first year of high school Kyle, who had grown up in the church and understood biblical principals, began to hang around with students who did not share those same beliefs – at least as evidenced by the choices they were making. What began as baby steps for Kyle – testing smoking, testing pot, testing pills – led to a craving for more and more and more – as is true of any addiction.

As his parents began to see signs of drug use, they confronted him but by then Kyle had learned the art of manipulating parents who tended to be trusting in life and lacked the strength of confrontation until far too late in the process. There are far too many words needed to describe the next 6 years of how Kyle's addictions impacted himself, his friends, his family and his entire life. Visits from local police were frequent and stretches in jail became the norm. Charges ranged from robbery to possession and everything in-between including two stays in rehab.

Kyle's parents have looked back and wondered how things got so out of hand feeling, as many parents do, responsible and guilty for any part they may have had in the process. However, in the end, they have come to realize that the choices Kyle made were his to make. At some point (or several points) he adopted a victim mindset and chose what that mindset offered. Today, Kyle is not completely free from his past. He realizes what his actions and choices have cost him and he continues making strides to be a victor. The hope, of course, is that he can continue to live his life victorious and not as a victim of his choices.

Truthfully, it is far easier to live life with a victim mentality. In most cases, victims have learned how to manipulate the world around them in order to get what they want. Food, shelter, clothing, money and, of course, the ultimate goal of obtaining their drug of choice. Yes, there are consequences to living life as a victim and for the drug addict those consequences can be potentially life-threatening. Living on the streets, begging strangers for money, constantly keeping an eye out for danger, the constant stress of lying or maintaining a lie, all of this – and more – comes with a victim mentality. This is why drugs – any drugs – are so potentially deadly. Not because OF the drug – but because of what the NEED for the drug does to a person.

Young women sell their bodies sexually to obtain drugs. Young men who are not homosexuals will engage in homosexual activities because of the promise of drugs or money to guy drugs. Teens steal and rob and come up with many creative ways to fund their habit. And the reasons people do these things is not because of THE DRUG. It is because of what the drug GIVES THEM – a sense of freedom and escape from the victim mindset they've slowly faded themselves into.

There is hope – because there is always hope. Parents and loved ones who struggle with addictive teens can take steps necessary to help bring freedom to their addicted family members helping them move from victim to victor. Here are a few ideas:

LOOK FOR WARNING SIGNS AND TAKE ACTION. This is the most difficult tactic for most contemporary parents because our current parental generation has grown up in an age where they want to be caring, loving, understanding, compassionate, etc. These are all very good values but unless tempered they can lead to misuse and lack of discipline. Give yourself credit, as the parent, to realize that when you first begin to notice new, potentially destructive behavior, you must step in and, as Barney Fife might say, nip it in the bud.

Your fear of being disliked by your teen lays the foundation for future manipulation on their part because once they figure out your soft spot, they will use that against you. This is not because they are a terrible person – it is because they are a naturally rebellious person – just like you were! Confrontation is never easy and nobody likes it especially in this day and age. However, most of the time, the only way to combat a potential addiction is to handle it immediately. Some might feel that it's best to simply “see what happens.” For some, that might work out fine. For most, however, it does not and your lack of ability to discipline will almost certainly come back to haunt you unless you take steps immediately to confront and halt a potentially addictive path from ever starting.

BE AWARE OF YOUR TEENAGER'S FRIENDS. Admittedly, this is difficult. Most parents do not want to monitor every friend who enters their home because they fear appearing controlling. There is something very luring about being the “fun” parent. The wise parent, however, will realize that being fun today might lead to deadly results down the road.

Almost nobody ever truly considers long-term consequences to short-term choices. The life-long smoker or over-eater usually doesn't think what their momentary choice to smoke or eat will do to their body 10 years from now. The “slow fade” is usually never considered because the immediate feeling is pleasurable. Being aware of your teen's friends means being aware of who is walking in through your front door, hanging out in your teen's bedroom or lingering on your front lawn. Don't be afraid to ask questions even if you feel controlling by doing so. Hard questions asked today are far better than bailing a teen out of jail later – or worse.

DECIDE TO LOVE. Addicts have a way of attacking us at a very deep level especially when that addict is your son or daughter. Parents ask the obvious questions: How, Why, When? Parents take it very personally when their child makes choices that run contrary to the morals and choices they have adopted for their own lives. When these morals clash the most difficult thing to do is tangibly love because our natural reaction as parents is to punish, control, re-direct and demand. In most cases, however, your teen is choosing drugs because at some level they do not feel worthy or valued. Their victim mind-set has left them feeling worth-less. This is where the courageous parent can step in and do the unthinkable – LOVE their teen who is still an addict.

True love is not conditional. The temptation is to love our teen when they STOP being an addict. That is not love. That is control and, in a very real sense, the same type of manipulation the teens has learned to use against his parents. Parents of addicted teens must choose to love their teen who is still an addict. There are many ways to do this while retaining healthy boundaries. Attending rehab meetings, or allowing the teen to be a part of family events and similar examples of love may not turn your teen around today – but it will have a lasting impact that will be revealed down the road – sometimes at the least expected moment.

As you guessed, Kyle's story comes from this author's personal experience. Not long ago, year 7 of his addictive lifestyle, Kyle came to me and said the following: “I had a gratitude moment yesterday and realized how thankful I am that you and mom have stuck with me through all the [stuff] I've put you through. I'm grateful you are my dad.”

Perhaps this victim will be victorious sooner than some had realized.

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