I first became aware of my son's drug use when he was a teenager and I went through all the normal emotions of shock, fear, anger and confusion. He wasn't exposed to alcohol or drugs growing up. I don't drink or do drugs. On weekends we went to all the craft shows, children’s fairs and school functions, yet he still ended up on drugs.
Lesson 1: It can happen to anyone.
Society has a mindset that all teen addicts come from homes with uncaring and uninvolved parents. It is not true. Addicts come from all walks of life, including warm, loving homes with caring parents and sober siblings. So I did what most parents do. I confronted him about what I knew. He initially denied any involvement in drugs but soon admitted to me that he had smoked marijuana. He told me some kids at school were into it, and when he tried it he didn't like it.
Lesson 2: Addicts lie.
It's part of their disease. When confronted, they sometimes make up a small admission to cover the real truth. I now know my son was actually hooked on pain pills by the time I confronted him. The best thing to do is to make decisions based on what you know, not how it feels. Several weeks later I found more evidence of drug use and one of my son's friend's told me my son was using drugs. I arranged for him to go into rehab. When I told my son he was going he told me that he would run away from it and I would never see or hear from him again. He convinced me that the friend had been lying and he outlined all the reasons leaving school for rehab was a bad idea. He was a senior, he wanted to get into a good college and I was ruining his chances and his future. I caved. I made him promise again not to do drugs. He assured me that this talk had helped and things were going to be okay.
Lesson 3: It is easier to force your kid into rehab before he is an adult.
Because I wanted to believe my son would not lie to me, I did not force him to go. He turned 18 a few months later and I no longer had the legal right to force him. It took almost 10 more years and several court ordered rehabs for him to finally get clean. The good news is that he is now clean, sober, employed and has a family of his own now.
I have no doubts about whether I was a good parent. I was there, involved and supportive, but if I had it to do over I would have put him in rehab as a teen while I still had the legal control to make that happen. I didn't, and my son lost 10 years of his life to addiction. Even teens who go to rehab sometimes relapse during their adult lives, but at least being forced to go when the problem first comes to light starts the path to recovery, whether it happens right away or takes several more tries.