Along with the manual you’re not given upon becoming a parent is also the missing heads up of the nauseating sensation that develops in the pit of your stomach as your tweens’ exposure to the ever-increasing dangers in this unsettling world heightens. Over the past several weeks I’ve been mourning the loss of a kid I didn’t even know because I too easily could have known him well.
A 16-year-old boy died from an accidental overdose of a fentanyl laced Xanax. A seemingly good boy; a smart boy; a boy who came from a sound family and was unconditionally loved. A 16-year-old boy whom was college bound with high hopes and big dreams for a future filled with ample successes, except now he’s dead and I just can’t shake it.
What if it was a kid I did know? What if it was my own kid? I shudder at the thought.
I further shudder thinking about the boy’s family and how they will manage this insurmountable loss.
I’m not nauseated by the pit in my stomach anymore; I’m now downright paralyzed from it.
Though I’ve been talking to my kids about the dangers of drugs since they were old enough to [just barely]understand what drugs are, this is a horse I’m committed to beating to death over and over and over no matter how many eye rolls, annoying sighs or teenaged snarky sprinkled comments I get.
“Mom, I know. I won’t. You’ve told me a hundred times.”
“I don’t. I haven’t.”
“Yes Mom, I know. I wouldn’t reply to strangers on the Internet.”
“Stop Mom, you don’t have to keep telling us.”
But do they? Do they really know? Of course they don’t; they’re kids and they don’t know.
So now what? If we’ve already conveyed the guaranteed dangers of dirty street drugs and the dire consequences it has on our seemingly healthy, educated children but yet they still think they’re invincible enough to cheat death, how do we change the narrative to stop these tragedies from happening? What else do we have to do or say to make today’s youth understand the seriousness of this matter? What will it take to ultimately scare the living shit out of them so the sexy appeal and mysterious allure [of experimentation] is no longer?
I wish I had the answers. Trust me I’ve been unpolishedly searching; desperate to come up with ways to teach new tricks to old dogs!
Then, the other day something happened. I was driving in the car with my fifteen-year-old son and two of his friends. They were having a heated debate about athletes and which sports stars truly are GOATS. Initially I wasn’t listening with both antennas because they were stuck on ice hockey, a sport my son doesn’t play nor did I think knew anything about.
“Wayne Gretzky was the Greatest Of All Time back in the day, but if he played now he’d never be able to keep up,” one of the boys said. “Yah, he was the GOAT but the skill of players today is on an entirely different level. The guys now would blow him away. He wouldn’t be as conditioned. He wouldn’t be as fast. The competition is totally elevated and it’s just way more fierce,” another kid exclaimed with confidence.
In that moment a lightbulb went off and my head started spinning. Silently, I said to myself, ‘it might appear to be the same but it’s not even close to the same game now. The players are different; they train differently; the skill level is much more advanced. Wayne Gretzky, the GOAT of ice hockey [then] would get killed on the rink against the GOATS in the league now.’ I continued talking to myself, ‘That’s how I have to approach the drug dilemma with the kids. I have to make a comparison they will completely understand and liken it to the differences in the severity of drug experimentation when I was growing up to that of what it’s like now; much the same as to Wayne Gretzky then versus Wayne Gretzky who’d be eaten alive now.’
I couldn’t wait to get home to have another sit down with my kids.
Never one to pass up a teachable moment, nor a good analogy, later that night I asked my kids if we could chat. I brought up the conversation my older son had had in the car with his buddies and purposely asked him to relay the story to his brother, who wasn’t in the car earlier. He agreed, unknowingly laying the groundwork for me.
“Guys, I know we’ve already talked a lot about the boy who died from buying drugs off of Snapchat but I need you to hear me on this again. In the past I’ve been honest with you about my own experimentation when I was younger. We’ve talked about it and I guess I’ve even normalized it to some degree because I know testing boundaries and pushing envelopes is part of growing up and I don’t want you to think I’m a hypocrite or worse, that I’m clueless about what goes on when parents aren’t looking. We’ve always discussed the importance of open communication and now more than ever this is critical. I’m your parent first and foremost and it’s my job to keep you safe. I’m not your friend but I must remind you again and again and again I never want you to be afraid to come clean about anything you think I would otherwise be angry about. The dangers of drugs today are not the same dangers of yesterday, or when I was growing up for that matter. Wayne Gretzky might have been a GOAT when he played on the ice but he wouldn’t be a GOAT today; he’d be crushed by his competitors. There’s no margin for error in the game of drugs. In today’s day, it’s too dangerous; it’s too lethal. Experimentation might have taught my generation something when I was your age, but today sadly what we thought was the same experiment simply isn’t. Experiments today teach us only one thing and the lesson is deadly.”
Suffice to say, as the conversation continued it wasn’t completely without the familiar eye rolls and sighs but there were however a few less teenaged snarky sprinkled comments. Instead, after a moment of pause my older son looked at me and replied, “Mom, I think it’s kinda like Wilt Chamberlin too. He was fire but he’d never be able to keep up with the ballers today. The game has changed too much. The talent now is just too intense.”
I smiled, hoping it would hedge the tears I was fighting back and said, “Yes baby. The talent now is just too intense.”
JUST TO LET YOU KNOW… Until the filth is cleaned from the streets there will never be any winners when it comes to the deadly game of drugs. We as parents must continually be the loudest voice our children hear so it drowns out the noise of dirty street garbage along the way. Whatever it takes, whatever the cost, all kids deserve to play in Game of Life… not death.
JUST TO LET YOU KNOW SOME OTHER THINGS… If you’ve been affected in any way by addiction or are interested in educating yourself more on the dangers of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids, the links below provide helpful information.