A Moment Of Passion A Lifetime of Grief: Who would think that having a child could lead to years of pain, frustration, and sorrow?
If you’re one of the unlucky parents with a kid on drugs and are experiencing this kind of special torture, you have a lot of work to do in order to get on your feet again.
As someone who works with hurting parents, I’ve heard it all. From the parents who live in fear of what negative actions their kids might be taking, to the parents who give up altogether and sadly go down the tubes with the addicted party.
During a recent London television interview for BBC on my book “Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and Alcohol Addicted Children,” I commented that, from what I’ve seen, people think more about where to have dinner than why to have children.
“Well, why did you have children, Charles?” asked the host of the show.
After a moment’s thought, I answered: “We couldn’t think of where to have dinner.”
This statement may have given the audience a laugh. But in thinking about what I said, I realized there is little humor.
Babies are beautiful. Each one is a bundle of joy, someone who will bring you great happiness, someone who will be a credit to themselves and you. You envision the Little League games and the ballet recitals. You’ll be needed and wanted. There are all sorts of delicious expectations.
And then the child grows up. And watch out. You suddenly feel you were just hit by a truck. Worst scenario? You are dealing with a hulking, moody, vicious, snarling, drug-addicted stranger.
This is someone who can reduce you to tears in seconds, who steals your most cherished possessions and hocks them, who defies and curses you at every turn, who inhabits your house but never contributes anything but darkness and foreboding.
A child on substances will radically change a family’s dynamic. He or she will bring out the worst characteristics in those around you. There will be bitterness and infighting. There will be dissension between the parents, with one being a strict disciplinarian calling the cops after each encounter, and the other a serial codependent who actually, through his or her permissiveness, promotes the abuse. Never the twain shall meet. As for the siblings, they will be resentful against the addict for taking away the attention that would have been lavished on them.
Children abusing parents is a social phenomenon that first gathered speed in the mid-fifties, perhaps spearheaded by a movie called “Rebel Without a Cause.” This film decreed it justifiable for teenagers to physically attack their parents, as does the character portrayed by James Dean. His father, played by Jim Backus, also known as Mr. Magoo, is seen as ineffective, bumbling and useless.
Remember James Dean’s red windbreaker? It became one of the best-selling garments in history, adopted by a legion of young movie-going youths who transferred what they saw onscreen to their real-life parents.
It was then, in America, that parents were seen in the same light as Mr. Magoo, while the character of poor, self-pitying, misunderstood James Dean, in searching for his identity, had become the hero of the day.
This characterization started a revolution against moms and dads that blotted out forever the Norman Rockwellian concept of family life as we knew it. Combining the contempt kids had for their parents with the proliferation of drugs, there were now the additional side issues of theft and violence to contend with.
Another source of unrest in the young was the 1951 publication of “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. This book, disarmingly entertaining, became a bible of sorts for those bleeding hearts that had to show their individualism through judging their elders. What was intended as a comical treatise against a phony world went much further than that, indicting the generation responsible for the world as it was during that time.
That generation, known today as the greatest generation, was the one that fought the war against Hitler, came home, built businesses, worked like the devil to provide for their families…and that unknowingly cast a seed of incalculable destruction.
These parents, wanting to give their special, darling children all the worldly goods their parents couldn’t provide for them (during the depression, having food on the table was the big luxury), had introduced to the world something called ‘entitlement.’
A whole chapter could be written on that subject along with the insanity that was, and is, in the minds of parents who hand over the reins of power to their offspring, allowing them to make major decisions affecting the entire family.
I have personally witnessed ten years olds dictating what will go on in the home while their parents have beamed happily at these “dear little angels.” Are these parents blind? What has brought about this bizarre need for parents to transfer their authority to the whims of an undeveloped mind?
Apparently they don’t know the trouble they are in for. The ramifications are terrifying and tragic.
When children are given unearned power as well as endless goodies, boredom sets in, excitement is craved, dangerous habits are formed and what better opportunity to experience living on the edge than with drugs?
Drugs and disharmony go hand in hand. You can’t live with a substance abuser and not feel the cold hand of death and destruction on your shoulder.
With substance-abusing teenagers, there’s the extra-added problem of developing hormones, and brains that are only half formed. Put it all together and you have a formula that can literally destroy your world.
In many homes around the world, these young druggies blast apart the family structure as does dynamite. They know no bounds because perhaps they weren’t taught bounds. They curse, hound, manipulate, berate, and mercilessly break down any defenses a parent may have. Worse, the drugs within them annihilate any hopes for their futures. Motivation is out the window.
Nothing is as devastating as seeing the potential of a beloved child go down the drain. Nothing, other than the death of a child, has the ability to break the parent’s heart.
I’ve seen many a parent’s heart—including mine–broken into a million pieces, and all the dreams we had for our kids, shattered.
Still, there is the continual striving to turn the teenager around, to make him or her see how ruinous is the preoccupation with drugs. The waiting rooms of rehabs on visiting days are full of parents, hopeful that their little Susie or Ben will emerge one day whole and ready to get back into the world.
My own fourteen-year-old son, convicted for theft, was ordered by a judge to a rehab for eighteen months. I saw him led off in handcuffs. It was one of the worst days of my life. Eighteen months passed and he was home again, and two days later he was back on drugs.
It was at this point, when broken in spirit, health, unable to concentrate on my work, bereft of former friends who were sick of the story, that I decided I had to either do something positive or die.
The path back to health and wholeness isn’t one that all parents of addicts choose to take. They often fall through the cracks. Deaths from heart attack or stroke and a spectrum of diseases are common. Add accidents to the list.
But once you have bravely decided that this fiasco has gone on long enough and that you are going to take the necessary steps to restore your life, you have entered a brand new chapter of your life. And interestingly, the addict will notice.
The addict will be shocked at first that you aren’t the same old pushover. Anger is sure to follow, especially when you cut off the funds and/or evict them from your home.
If you choose life and want to survive, you have to take steps. Here they are.
Step One: Take care of you. It’s essential to remember all your dreams and hopes, the ones you have relegated to a dusty corner of your mind in favor of dwelling on the addicted child. It may sound like a cliché, but it is never too late to become the person you always wanted to be.
Step Two: Get back in the swing of things. Get back to exercising, eating well, socializing, working in a field that excites you.
Step Three: Get yourself into a support group, whether it be Al anon, Nar-anon, FA, Tough Love, or any of the many regional support groups. You will have instant friends, people who know exactly what you are talking about.
Don’t, no matter what the temptation, discuss the situation with people who have no reference to your problems. They won’t be able to understand your plight.
In my book: Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You, there’s a chapter titled: Others Will
Condemn You. Let Them.
Meanwhile, you will be enjoying your other family members (you know, the ones you neglected for so long?) and you will be seeing friends and you will be feeling fulfilled in your job.
For your own peace of mind, know this: It is not the actual child who is creating mayhem. It is the drug within the child’s body that has turned the child into a monster. Without the insidious drug doing it’s evil, he or she returns to the person he or she was before taking drugs.
I recall my son phoning me one time when he had temporarily quit drugs. He was the sweet and wonderful son of days of old. I said to him: “Welcome back!”
Alas, his “real self “ didn’t remain once he went back to using.
In closing, maybe you still don’t think you signed up for any of this, but you did. You created a human being and what does anyone know about creating a human being? It’s all trial and error, along with the advice we get from baby book authors, some of whom don’t even have kids.
You created a human being, complex and maddening and not someone you could, after a certain age, control. Take responsibility for this and recognize that, as a parent, you have power. Change yourself and your family will change. It will have to.
Change yourself and you will become a teacher for other parents. They’ll want to know what you know.
Change yourself and there might actually, one day, be a real war on drugs.
Right now it is dormant. The media won’t touch the subject unless a celebrity overdoses.
One’s life may never return to that safe, wonderful place you once knew when your child was small and full of bright, beautiful energy. But you can take solace in the fact that you did save a life. Yours.
Charles Rubin is the author of the international best-seller: Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You: A Guide for Parents of Drug and alcohol addicted Children. This book, written by the author to save his own life, has now helped thousands of parents do the same. Rubin, who is a regular media guest, lives in Sonoma County, CA.
He’s working on a follow up to Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You. He also counsels parents–visit him on Facebook (Charles Rubin author).