Of all the talks, the drug talk is probably the most problematic.
The sex talk and the car talk have been cornerstones of teen parenting for decades and of course the internet talk is the new trend conversation between parents and eight year olds. But these talks need to occur because we know that eventually, all our kids will get online, have sex and drive a car.
But the drug talk can be avoided – whether your parental approach is a zero-tolerance, just-say-no style or you want to let the education department handle it – or even believing our children wouldn’t take drugs – the drug talk just doesn’t seem popular. Plus every parent has a different viewpoint and few would claim to be anything but anti-drug. Which in my case would be… ahem… hypocritical.
The thing I like about blogging and Twitter is that sensible conversations between parents can occur without tabloid sensibilities – so let’s have one here.
First off, let me just give a full disclosure of my past and current drug use – both legal and illegal.
18-21: Alcohol, caffeine & marijuana
22-29: Alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, ecstasy, speed, coke plus a few ‘tried once or twice’ like LSD and mushrooms
30+: Alcohol, heaps of caffeine and ecstasy about three or four times (so far)
Just on the last one: I’ve got kids. At my age pills take about two or three days to get over. The extra energy or sparkle or whatever you want to call it that drugs give a night simply isn’t worth the horror days dealing with kids. They know. They punish. I’ve probably had my last pill but I guess never say never, eh?
Though more seriously, just listing what I’ve done does little to reveal anything about myself or my attitudes – depending on your viewpoint I could range from either being morally compromised in any drug discussion to a wannabe showoff. So let me push on (no pun intended) so you know exactly where I’m coming from.
First off: if I had to summarise my experiences around drug use for the past 20+ years it would be this: mostly positive, ta very much.
I’ve had lots of vastly enjoyable experiences, a couple of scares, and a few uncomfortable mindfucks. I’ve learnt that I’m not a violent person (sleep depravation aside), that I quite enjoy high energy or emotion enhancing drugs and don’t enjoy low energy drugs like pot (at least, not since my teens).
I’ve learnt that, for me, creativeness flows from drug use. I remember nights of mad writing in my mid-twenties, pages (of terrible, terrible writing) exploding from me due to being unable to sleep from using speed. I’ve learnt I do not enjoy the hallucination bubble that LSD seems to give me. I’ve learnt never, under any circumstances, cook a recipe you’ve thought up while stoned. Especially if you think this recipe will solve world hunger.
But I’m aware I approached teen drug use from the best possible position. I’ve only used drugs as a social tool, not as an escape (my oh-so-hard-done-by-late-teen-trying-to-get-laid-by-appearing-to-have-a-deep-inner-poet may have disagreed, but he was a tosser). I was solid middle-class born, Canberra-raised in a high-employment middle-class stable community. Neither money nor addiction have ever been an issue.
I’ve seen shit, sure. I’ve seen a guy launch an Australian magazine at twenty-one, move to New York at twenty-three on more money PA than I’ll ever earn, become a smack head and be unable to hold a waitering job at thirty. I once encouraged a girl on her eighteen birthday party to put a little speed in her beer, and she later became pretty messed up – she’s fine now but five years of her life were wasted. At uni I once was sitting next to a guy who had a violent uncontrollable acid flashback mid-lecture. My former boss, drug dealer and flatmate once cleaned out our apartment, took off never to be heard of again after taking my rent money for months but using it for drugs and gambling on pokies. I found out when I came home to an empty apartment and pissed off reality agent. In an incident I look back on in horror, at a party in my own apartment a guy was convulsing from mixing drugs and we put him in the bedroom to basically wait for it to wear off. Only years later did it occur to me that I should have taken him to the hospital and how lucky we were that he didn’t die. One New Year’s Eve after a night on the pills I opted out of getting a new bag of ten e’s and went home. Everyone who had one of those e’s ended up in hospital.
Anyone who knows what a ‘special coffee’ is and the story around it knows I had questionable, questionable judgement at some points.
But I’ve never seen anyone get killed or OD or any the really bad stuff that happens on piss poor cop TV shows or novels by Irvine Welsh.
So I’m also aware that I’ve dodged bullets, when others haven’t, my life has turned out fine while others are ruined and that I’ve been able to walk away when others couldn’t. I’ve had excellent guides and advice along the lines and I tend to think about shit a fair bit too, which led me to walk away from most of it in my mid-late twenties to start a family.
So there you have it. I’m not anti-drugs. Like anything, your ability to handle them varies from person to person and situation to situation. I acknowledge that people will have horror stories. But one of the reasons government scare ad campaigns don’t work is that the scenes they depict they simply do not reflect the realities and experiences of tens of thousands of teen and adult drug users each weekend.
When I consider my children’s future I prefer, of course, a drug free one… in the same fashion I’d be happy if my daughters wait until I die before they have sex. Wait, even that isn’t true. Drugs, if done right, are enjoyable, safe and perception-enhancing.
Yeah you read it right: not only do I acknowledge that my daughters will take drugs in the future, I expect they’ll enjoy it. To me, that’s a reasonable position not too far from saying ‘While I know that alcohol abuse is rife in Australian society, I believe my child will be able to handle it’ – which is probably a statement most parents would agree with.
The realities are: Drugs are out there. No matter what job you get, what education you have or where you chose to live – drugs will be available and offered to your children. My personal experience included two of my bosses being drug dealers to the team. The scenario is not unlikely for teens and young adults today. Like sex, my daughters will eventually try drugs. They’ll think they’re all cool and rebels and shit. But eventually the ‘new’ experience will get old, and they’ll move on as I have.
So, without future dithering here is my plan for the drug talk. I really would like feedback and discussion, especially from anyone who’s given the drug talk or plans to shortly.
I plan to give the talk to my daughters when they are around thirteen. I’ve already been told this is probably too late. I think it’s the perfect time between having a pretty decent knowledge of drugs but prior to having taken them. What say you?
The guidelines I’ll suggest to my daughters:
– When people offer you drugs, talk to them about it. What’s cool about it? What’s not? How does it make you feel? How is the come down? What happens the next day? People love being the ‘experts’ – so they’ll answer most questions honestly
– If it doesn’t sound like it will be fun, it probably won’t be
– Don’t try the addictive stuff. It’ll fuck you up
– No needles. Careful as you are, you can’t always control the dosage. Everything else it absorbed slowly, unless injected. You can’t spew your veins up
– Start small. Try a quarter pill
– The hospital is your friend. Hospitals won’t call your parents unless you ask them to. You won’t get in trouble, you’ll just get help
– Plan ahead & manage the after-effects. Suicide Tuesday is easier to handle if you know it is called Suicide Tuesday
– Don’t be the first to try the new drug. Yes, I’m saying use your friends as guinea pigs. Don’t eat the new batch until someone else has
– Honestly review your behaviour – change drugs if you don’t like what is happening, or, you know, stop
– Take it if you can leave it. I’ve been told once or twice this statement is a wank.
– Call me if you are fucked up and need help. I’ll come get you. Worldwide. No judging, no talking until you are sorted
So. It’s going to be a fine cussing line between education and condoning. And that’s the essential difference between the car, ‘net and sex talks. We, generally, condone car driving, think the internet can be bloody useful, and condone sex between consenting adults. So education is important. But we don’t condone drug use. A tough one, yes?
However: I’m their parent, not their friend. I’m never going to introduce them to any drugs or encourage them to take it. While I say above that I expect my daughters will take drugs and enjoy them, they’ll never, ever know I have that opinion.
I know the signs. I’ve been there. And unless they are taking addictive drugs, I’ll be pretty cool about it. I’ll know.
Hypocrisy? I don’t know, probably?
So I’ll probably do the talk the first time around thirteen, and repeat it every couple of years. Obviously, their attitude will evolve of time with opportunity and experience.
So – bring on the navel gazing questions:
– Are drugs any good?
– Is not using drugs better?
– Can you raise a guarenteed-never-going-to-try-drugs child?
– Has the drug scene changed since my youth?
– Is an anti-drug stance hypocritical, justifiable or wishful thinking? Not just for me, but for anyone.
– Does education also imply condoning?
– Am I a complete naive fool?
Over to you…