Just Say Why
There was a poem floating around on Face Book yesterday that didn’t sit well with me. The poem was actually lovely and heartbreaking; the message was the thing that I was bothered by. Firstly, there was terribly poor graphic at the top of the poem. It was a picture of the supposed author that had been digitally manipulated. It was meant to make the girl appear to be in the horrific throws of drug addiction. I thought she looked like a werewolf had mauled her. It was just badly done. The explanation also mentioned that she was a young Indian girl. Well the girl in the picture is Native American, and if the poor child truly did pass away, that is simply disrespectful.
So after nitpicking its presentation. I know; I was. Here’s what bothered about the message that I perceived it was sending: This is a warning about drug addiction coming from a very immature child. I don’t think that such an important message should be the responsibility of a young girl. I had the opportunity to attend Narcotics Anonymous meetings with my foster boys as their custodian. This is when I was living in St. Helens Oregon. The area is one of the hot beds in the United States for methamphetamine production and consumption.
The stories that I had the benefit to witness affected my life deeply. The tragedy of the stories that the brave people in recovery told, were absolutely mind-boggling. Very few of them grew up without addiction in their homes at an early age. Many of them suffered abuse as children. Many of them used with their own parents as children, just as many of them had passed on their addiction to their kids. One of the things that these recovering addicts all had in common was that no one had ever, ever in their whole lives, taught them that they had power over themselves and that they had responsibility for their own actions. This is what I believe left them so venerable to addiction in the first place.
AA and NA are very old organizations. The programs have done worlds of good for countless people, even members of my own family. I am eternally grateful for them and I am not putting them down here at all, just pointing something out. If you’re not familiar with the program you should know that there are steps that the members complete. I don’t like the first step. I never have. It dismisses responsibility. I have always understood its necessity, and why it works for addicts who have hit rock bottom and have nowhere else to go. It helps for them to give up responsibility to the drug because of all of the pain that they may have inflicted on the people that they love. To label themselves helpless aids in their healing process.
So, in her poem this little girl says something to the effect of: “Try meth once and you might get away. Try it twice and you will be addicted to it forever.” That’s the part that really bothered me. This child speaks of having no responsibility, no control over addiction. That may be a message that is appropriate for people who are already addicted. However, giving children at a young age, the message that they are powerless over a chemical substance, over anything for that matter, is a really bad idea… a really, really, bad idea.
Remember the “Just Say No!” campaign, and how terrifically successful that was? It was completely wrong approach because it left children who heard it with the question “Why” in their minds. Adults were unwilling to discuss the answer. I want my kids to be empowered to control the events in their lives. I want for them to be prepared to deal with every situation they encounter with confidence, and certainty, and bravery. I want for my kids to be informed. I want for them to have skills and tools that they can use to handle life. I do not want for them to believe that they are powerless in any way, that sets them up to become victims, whether victims of violence or addiction or anything.
So I thought that the young woman’s poem was beautiful and tragic and it’s nothing that I would have a problem sharing with my kids as long as it was presented in the right way. I don’t want for my kids to have the mistaken notion that if they succumb to peer pressure a few times in their life, they are going to be completely screwed and addicted to a drug forever.
Drugs are not bigger or stronger than my kids. Scare tactics do not work on children. Grizzly details of one little girls experience with addiction aren’t going to cut it. When teaching kids about the dangers of drugs kids actually need to be spoken with. With, being key because it must be a conversation. As parents we must dive in and be strong and answer the hard questions that they ask us, and tell the truth to them when they want to know if we have ever tried drugs. Kids are so smart, nothing gets by them, and honesty is the only real way to get through to them.
The young woman’s story was tragic, as are so many stories involving drug addiction. When I think back to those amazing survivors that I met at the NA meetings. They are the ones who’s stories I would like for my kids to hear. Stories from the twelve-year survivor, stories of success and bravery, stories that warn but that equally inspire. If kids grow up looking at the world as minefield that is booby-trapped to the hilt, if they believe that one false step is going to destroy their entire future. They are going to live their life in fear. I don’t want to scare my kids to death!
I want to encourage them to get out there in the world. I want to teach them about the endless possibilities out there. I want them to have the confidence to achieve their dreams without feeling like they have to be looking over their shoulders all of the time. It’s hard. I’m not always going to say everything right, and I’m not always going to do everything right, but I am going to keep trying. I will always give my kids the Why that they want to know; it’s the most that I can give them.
Here is a place to find the poem if you are interested in reading it: