I have to preface by saying our town is a beautiful place to live, and it is considered to be one of America's finest cities. People move here because our town is safe, secluded, and it's a perfect town to raise a family. The schools are good (if your kid is Type A. Mine are think-outside-the-box types, but that's another story). Our climate is gorgeous, and the town's atmosphere is charming and welcoming.
What no one likes to admit is that there is a serious drug and alcohol problem in our town that is impacting our youth, and especially our teens. Drug and alcohol usage in our town is 7% higher than the California State average. In the most recent California Healthy Kids Survey (information about this survey can be viewed here), 43% of 11th graders in the greater San Diego area had used alcohol or other drugs with some form of regularity within the past 30 days. In our town, 50% of 11th graders had regularly used within the past 30 days. Okay, that means that out of every FOUR TEENS, ages 16-17 in high school, TWO are using drugs and/or alcohol with some form of regularity.
In fact, I have a quote from a person who is an administrator within our school system who said, "On any given day, over two thirds of high school boys come to school high, or get high during the school day." Now that is downright frightening.
My ninth grader knows about addiction, he's seen what hell his older brother has gone through trying to fight back and regain his life against the powerful pull of drugs. So, last Friday night, my ninth grader asked to "hang out" with friends, including one boy we know to have been mixed up with drugs. I warned my son against this kid, and reminded him that his ability to retain his privileges, including trips to visit his older brother, rely solely on his ability to remain sober and drug free. He told me he could cope with this, and proudly reported that his friend had been drug free for 7 months. (Um, okay, I'll believe it when I see it, I thought, but I kept this to myself...) We devised a 9-1-1 text plan, where he could text me at any moment to ask for help, and I would be there in a flash-minute to help him out of any jam. All he'd need to do was "call".
And, guess what, he did!
His friend, so NOT sober, arrived with a group of older guys, already rowdy drunk, and toting the proverbial backpack filled with bottles of booze, and who knows what else. (So typical in our town. Maybe in your town too...) My son felt things were going down in a bad way, so he sent out the good ol' 9-1-1. And, even though my husband and I were celebrating his birthday, I responded to that text in a flash minute, and gave my son the support and rescue he needed in order to keep that beautiful state of sobriety. It worked like a charm.
Afterwards, we talked about the struggle his friend has in front of him. Certainly, at age 14, he has already opened the Pandoras Box of addiction. His brain, instead of growing and maturing like nature intends, is putting a powerful robot in charge called "Addiction" which is hijacking his brain's development in the name of drug abuse. The most significant struggle this kid has is the force to stop using when everything around him remains the same. Since the pull to fit in and self medicate is so powerful with teens in our town... that "50% of 11th graders" bell is ringing in my ear... I feel certain my son's friend is slated to fail without significant parental intervention, and as long as he remains connected to his current "friends," and of course, is allowed to "hang out" in our "charming", yet drug infested town...
*** 4/20/13 UPDATE: Within less than one month, the aforementioned "friend" is now in juvie.... Apparently, he totally gave up the illusion he was sober, and went full tilt back into drug use. He was caught trying to break into a locked car to get a drug accessory, and was caught by the police. Very sad, and a very real reminder of the trauma drugs cause...