Tweens & Teens in 2012: An Op-Ed on Teenage AddictionWritten By: Michael Bonventre Date: October 16th, 2012. Topic: Adolescents.
By Mike Bonventre
Tweens are children ages 12 and younger; teens are children ages 13-19. In 2012, it has been reported that kids are drinking as young as eight years old. Kids are experimenting with drugs and sex as young as nine years old. Older siblings are introducing drugs, sex and alcohol to the younger kids in order to have alliances, as in, “now you can’t tell because you are guilty, too”.
After 30 years as a national consultant in the drug and alcohol industry, it is getting harder than ever to find parents anywhere in America who instinctively understand how to parent when the subject is about drugs. Parents across the nation are in deeper denial today than I have ever experienced in 30 years. The more money and prestige a parent has, it seems the deeper the parent’s denial and the worse the enabling.
I am amazed at the blind faith parents put in their schools, police, politicians and media. With bullying; school teachers having sex with minors; police departments across the nation arresting narcotics officers for drug trafficking; school administrators protecting their school district budgets and reputations, with complete disregard for the children who have been labeled “incidental” to the business of education, I am amazed that any parent trusts the safety of their child to anyone.
Animals are far better at raising their young than humans. It is really simple: Teach your young how to eat, find food and not be eaten if you die tomorrow.
Parents need to ask one question: Will my child survive if I die tomorrow? If the answer is not likely, then ask where you went wrong and how to fix it. It’s time to seek advice and never use the words “but”, “how about”,” what if”,” why can’t I just” or “what about so and so?” It’s time to take responsibility for the child you produced. Never again consider what the neighbors, school or relatives will say or think. If it matters, give your kid to them. If you have been worried about asking others for fear anyone might find out, don’t. Everybody knows and they probably know more about your child than you do.
Let’s start with a definition from Webster’s Dictionary:
Parenting: 1) the raising of a child by its parents; 2) the act or process of becoming a parent; 3) the taking care of someone in the manner of a parent.
Notice that all three end with parent/s. Not friend, teacher, police officer, doctor, prescription medicine, babysitter or in-laws. If your adolescent child is a drug addict or your adult child is a drug addict living at home at 20, 30 and 40, or even 50 years old, it is because you missed or failed at something in the parenting process.
Let me share a recent conversation with an initial interview. It was almost exactly the same as the two earlier this week and the thousands over the past 30 years. The mother of a 10-year addict, now 21 years old, came in with a bag of paraphernalia that consisted of outdated prescription bottles filled with assorted pain killers not listed on the bottles; BIC pen casings with ground pill powder in them; the grinder; several baggies and burnt foil with Marijuana residue. The child/ 21-year-old adult has progressively become more temperamental, throwing tantrums, objects and fists. The addict quickly went from swearing at the mother to raising a hand to her and threatening to commit suicide if she tells dad. Dad, as usual, is a man’s-man who deals with any of his wife’s concerns with, “you know kids” and “it is a stage”. (With couples, it is almost always the mother who calls and meets me first.) The concern immediately turns to how to be kind and non-offensive to the father. In other words, Mom wants me to help her enable dad so dad can continue to enable the child.
I have observed that with divorced parents, both tend to come separately blaming each other, and the drug-addicted child is rarely the focus for either parent. You get the picture. This is the trend across the board, so I always say: 1) I don’t want to meet the addict until all enablers are on the same page; 2) I don’t want the addict to have notice about or control the drug testing. Those most likely to fail follow the same behavior every time. They go home, confront the addict against my advice, have a disagreement and let the addict come in at his or her choosing for a drug test. Addicts are much easier to fix than their parents and other enablers.
Parents who put their child’s needs before their own vanity, ego and concerns of what others may think, are on the same page and are not afraid to hurt their child’s feelings for their own good, usually enjoy the bonus of being friends with their children. Conversely, parents who try to be their children’s friends by caring about what outsiders may say and giving into tantrums, avoiding responsibility or undermining their spouse or ex rarely ever achieve real friendship with their children. They simply teach them how to become manipulators and users with little or no self-respect and self-esteem or respect for others.
When your child was two years old, you wouldn’t hesitate to hurt their arm in an attempt to stop them from running in front of a car. You wouldn’t be afraid of making them cry if you reacted abruptly as they were getting ready to drink cleaning fluid. You might even slap their little hands away from a burning candle if you thought that was the only way to keep them from getting burned. A tantrum only lasted as long as you paid attention. The tantrum leaves with the audience or the realization the audience won’t cave in and return.
If you found teaching your child responsibility, consideration and respect for themselves and others hard or inconvenient as they were growing up, get ready for the ride of your life. Now that you have lost complete control, the first thing you must know is at age 12, 22 or 42, substance abusers share the lack of maturity and life skills to make wise choices, take personal responsibility or have the ability to appreciate the feelings of friends and loved ones. Active users are in dire need of unconditional parenting, tough love, consistent guidance, mentoring, selfless concern and real treatment. Anything less will be manipulated to their advantage and prolong their rehabilitation.
I would recommend that you not spend a single penny or a single minute if you are not ready to start to take a zero-tolerance approach and full-control attitude with your child and all the enablers in his or her life. Prevention and rehabilitation starts with the enablers. You cannot help others until you help yourself. The addict is the result of his or her enablers. Babies are not born lazy, disrespectful, manipulative liars with addictive behavior. All of those traits were learned and nurtured. Rehabilitation usually means teaching the addict that they are starting with the trust and control of a six to 10 year old, because that is usually the level of decision-making and maturity they are acting on.
If you send an addict to an expensive $100,000 six-month facility, they are going to start out restricting his or her smoking, phone calls and all privileges. The facility will dictate when they eat and when they sleep and they will demand respect as they will also give respect. They will mandate several hours of classes and interactive discussions. All of that conditioning is a complete waste of time and money if they come home to the same divided, undisciplined, easily manipulated enablers who remain in denial. The experience will be no different than any other six-month incarceration. Addiction is a family problem.
In 2012, it is the parent who is sure his child could not be guilty who has the child who is most likely to be guilty. It is always the parent who points a figure at the friends who find out their child is the friend. The more prestigious and the higher the income and the more influential the family, the more likely the child is getting lost at an earlier age. Yes, we know who you are and what you do. Do you know who your child is and what he is doing?
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