Q & A with a user's mom
By Lenny Roberts
While America deals with drug
addiction by shifting the focus from issuing severe penalties
to education and rehabilitation, the use of illegal drugs by
our children and young adults continues.
The lucky ones may simply outgrow drug use without becoming addicted
or being arrested. But they still watch as their childhood friends
fall into a lifestyle that can become irrevocable. Even as their
pals continue to die, or, at best, suffer permanent physiological
damage, some drug abusers still don't heed the warnings.
While few are able to hide their addiction from law enforcement
officers and parents and siblings who have been taught drug-recognition
signs, even fewer who rely on cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine,
ecstacy or other stimulants will even admit that they have a
When street drugs are not available, prescription medication
or over-the-counter medication can make an adequate substitute.
To make matters worse, a growing number of not-yet-classified-as-illegal
drugs are easily delivered to homes all over America after a
few clicks on an Internet page. According to the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration, "innovative herbal energizers"
like Trip2Night, Snuffadelic, Benzo Berries and Liquid Speed
are advertised as alternatives to illicit street drugs and purported
to contain sources of ephedrine, which has been known to kill
as readily as a hot shot of heroin if improperly administered
The death of 23-year-old Baltimore Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler
in March was attributed to several contributing factors, including
the report that "Bechler had been battling a weight problem
and was taking a controversial ephedrine supplement, sold over-the-counter
as a weight-loss aid and energy booster," according to USA
Drug abuse by any family member often disrupts that family beyond
repair. Being the parent of an offspring with a drug problem
can be a challenge reserved for only the most patient and understanding.
A middle-aged mother agreed to answer tough questions if we protected
her identity. She is part of an upper-middle-class, multi-child
family torn by the addiction of one of its members, mainly to
Q: To the best of your knowledge, do any of your other children
use, or have they ever used street drugs?
A: As far as I know, two of our four children have used street
drugs, but all report that "their friends" have experimented
Q: Did they all go through the D.A.R.E. program?
A: All of our children went through the D.A.R.E. program and
saw the "scared straight" drug education films. All
but one tried drugs, alcohol and street drugs when they were
under-age, actually within a year or two of DARE. Looking back,
I was too lenient about smoking tobacco because it seemed the
lesser of many evils.
Q: In retrospect, did you and your husband overprovide for your
children? If so, do you believe that this was a contributing
A: The parental blame game is a painful trap and we will never
stop wondering what could have been done differently or better.
Statistically, overproviding itself is a scapegoat, but I do
wonder about the lack of delayed gratification. In any case,
while we may have contributed to use and abuse, we could not
have prevented addiction. We could have, however, killed him
with kindness once he was addicted. The one thing we may have
overprovided is honest information about our own marijuana use
as youth. We have never used with our children, as is often heard
of in Ojai; in fact, we do not use at all. We did project a liberal
attitude that may have given a mixed message of acceptability.
Q: How did you know this child had a problem?
A: At first, it was hard for us to tell the difference between
normal adolescent acting-out and a drug issue. In hindsight,
the pieces of the puzzle were there for a long time. We excused
all of the established individual and family symptoms of substance
abuse, and then we began to hope it was only a phase. This was
a point in time where we did overprovide and overexcuse, and
we could have literally killed him with kindness.
Q: Has he finally admitted to his addiction? What were the circumstances?
A: There was never even a hint of admission, just adamant
denial, until he finally spent some time in jail. The combination
of the harsh environment plus added circumstance of being detoxed,
was the beginning of his journey back from addiction to street
Q: How many times has he been arrested?
A: The number is a bit of a blur, thankfully. As his abuse
escalated, so did the frightening, late-night phone calls from
Nothing prepares a mother for the pain of having a child in jail.
There is no parent orientation or Dr. Spock pamphlet. There is,
however, tremendous, ironic relief knowing that your child in
finally safe: "clean," eating three meals a day and
With the use of street drugs, a child becomes a street kid. Even
if he has a roof over his head, he is a runaway to the problem.
This is why jail, for us and for him, was a blessing in disguise.
Q: Why do you think he didn't quit using after being arrested
the first and second times?
A: Being arrested was an important part of the answer, not
all of it. If it were that simple, perhaps he would have been
"scared straight." Recovery is a process and being
in jail was a step.
Our general policy was not to post bail for our son, which is
a difficult decision which we made with the help and advice of
friends. This would definitely have qualified as "over-providing"
and been a mistake.
Q: Has he been incarcerated?
A: So far, he has not been sentenced to any jail time, only
served time on arrests. He may still have to serve time in custody.
Meanwhile, he is participating in court-mandated drug treatment
under Proposition 36 and is on probation.
Q: To date, what have you spent on his defense?
A: At first we hired the best attorney we knew. Then we realized
that he should have the best attorney he could afford, which
was a public defender. We are now tying up loose ends with a
private attorney again, all told legal fees, fines and court
expenses have been over $5,000.
Q: Would jail time serve as a lesson or do you favor rehab for
A: Everyone deserves a fair chance at rehab, but sometimes
jail is a necessary part of the rehab picture. "Repeat"
offenders actually get many bites of the apple before they are
incarcerated, and while the courts may be a little uneven, they
seem to do a decent job of determining how many chances one gets.
Q: What mental and physical improvements have you seen since
he stopped using drugs?
A: Our son came back to us, it is almost that simple. He has
regained nearly 100 pounds of his former weight, and nearly 100
percent of his wonderful personality and sense of humor. He is
working, learning, laughing and loving, almost as if making up
for lost time.
Q: You were issued a restraining order against him. Why did you
fear for your safety?
A: Under the influence of meth, my son was totally out of
control. The restraining order was a very tough step that protected
my other children and me. It was an important line that had to
be drawn in the sand: stay away as long as you are using. We
were always waiting on the other side of the line, with open
arms. Meanwhile, we were not safe from physical and verbal abuse
when, for example, money for drugs was more motivating to him
than anything else.
Q: How is your relationship with your son now?
A: Our son lives at home now, and is an important, positive
member of our family again. We have both participated in counseling
and recovery programs which have helped us communicate more clearly.
I think he would agree that we wish we could have had a better
past, but we are thankful to be where we are today.
Q: As a parent, what have you learned from this?
A: Addiction is a family illness, period. Everyone contributes
to and suffers with the problem. Our entire family had to learn
to be radically honest with ourselves and each other and it was
only then our son could become healthy again.
Q: Do you fear that he will use drugs again?
A: I am concerned every day for every child in my family and
our community. Our son in recovery is very sturdy right now,
with strong friends and a good network of support. No one ever
gave up on him: not his family or true friends, not the Ojai
police department, the community, or the judicial system. That
said I know firsthand that it would be naïve to say "never
2003 The Ojai Valley News
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