I was born in 1979. I was a child of the eighties, the product of endless social programs like Nancy Reagan's 'Just Say No' Campaign or D.A.R.E. By the sixth grade we had been taught about marijuana, cocaine and heroin. We believed that one dose would trigger a horrible cycle of addiction ending with the addict stealing from loved ones and living on the street.
It wasn't until many years later that I learned the even worse truth. Some people CAN do drugs socially while others crumple under crushing addiction. I have known kids who innocently smoked weed, I have met adults that still do. I have known functional heroin addicts and some people in recovery. It isn't the kind of thing you wear on your sleeve, but people own up to it in private. But the most chilling reality is that drugs really are everywhere.
When I became a parent I vowed that in time I would bring up the conversation about illegal drugs. And I would not just tell the story of the homeless junkie who has lost their family because of their habit or that tweaked out crazy person screaming on the train. I would also tell the story of the rich kid who does coke when he parties. Or the adult who started smoking weed at parties and now as an adult still does so, putting his job and life in jeopardy. Or the guy who's job is so demanding that he uses to get more done. And what about the person who abuses perscription pain pills?! People all over do drugs for different reasons. There isn't just one blueprint for how illegal drugs ruin your life. I also want to tell the story that there are people who do drugs a few times and have a bad reaction to them and land in the hospital. You really don't know what you are going to get. How about a game of Russian roulette?
I recently realized that I have already begun to have this conversation with my children. In speaking with them about putting good foods in their bodies I am teaching them to respect themselves through nutrition. Hopefully they will understand from a young age that polluting our bodies is not wise nor does it benefit us. But while I start out having a conversation about preservatives and food dyes, it will be an easy transition when my kids are old enough to hear my opinions about illicit drugs. Illegal drugs are just like the chemicals that have been added to our food, in the sense that they are chemicals that have a reaction in the body. Illegal drugs however can be acutely detrimental to our bodies, whereas most food preservatives must build up over time (except in the case of allergy).
Thinking of the paralells between food and drugs, I felt some stress roll away about my future duties as a parent. I truly believe that my kids will see drugs often, perhaps starting as young as middle school. I am no 'hide my head in the sand' parent. My plan on talking with my kids about drugs is to talk to them often and to not be shy about it. What might start out as an awkward conversation probably will end up as a frank conversation. And the conversation has got to start somewhere.