A Cautionary Tale for Every Parent Regarding Your Teen and Drugs – Do You Know Your Rights?
This is not a happy, feel-good story. It’s quite the opposite but I feel it’s one that I need to share with every parent. Especially parents who have children approaching their teen years.
My oldest son Dean had been living with his Dad in Tasmania for a few years. Every summer he would arrive for the school holidays and together with my husband and our other two children we would hang out and have fun. The one thing I found odd was that for the first week each summer he would be oddly cranky, have an abnormal amount of headaches and spend a lot of time in bed. I put it down to adjusting to a different environment and family dynamic and because he always came good fairly quickly, I didn’t overly worry about it.
Then when he was 14 (our daughter was 10 and our son was 8) he said he wanted to come and live with us in Melbourne. I was over-joyed and excited by his decision and he arrived around Easter that year. I enrolled him in the local high school and we painted and furnished a permanent bedroom for him to feel happy and at home in.
He was an avid skateboarder and very talented at it so I was quite comfortable with him going to the skate park pretty much every single day after school so he could meet like-minded kids.
What I didn’t know was that he was meeting other kids who also shared his marijuana addiction. And I’m not using the term addiction lightly. It became glaringly obvious almost immediately when he came home stoned, red-eyed and reeking of it. When confronted, he confessed that he’d been smoking it since the age of 11 and had no intention of stopping it any time soon.
We were suitably horrified. And thus began our nightmare.
Pleading with him to give it up fell on deaf ears. Restricting his mobility and finances was a failure. He would sneak out at night after we went to sleep and he would steal money from us on a regular basis.
I contacted his teachers at school to learn that he hardly attended class (not that they had bothered to get in touch with me) and I made dozens and dozens of phone calls seeking help to try and deal with this; wrongly assuming that I would be able to force him into some sort of re-hab. I could not. Everything had to be HIS decision and HIS choice.
The impact on our other kids was devastating. Largely because Dean’s behaviour whilst smoking dope was not what you would expect. He wasn’t some laid-back, quiet, happy stoner. He was aggressive, hostile, angry and on occasion – violent. He once put his hands around our 8 year old’s throat and threatened to strangle him because he’d moved his “skate’ hat away from the heater where it was drying. They heard and witnessed things that were well beyond their years or ability to comprehend and were frightened and uncomfortable with it all.
When I threatened to send him back to Tasmania he came home, on my birthday, and announced he had quit school, he’d been to Centrelink and had organised to receive Youth Allowance payments and he was going to move out.
He left two days later and spent his days roaming the streets and crashing on the couches of every kid he’d met in the past 6 months. We received phone calls day and night from fed up parents who didn’t want him in their house and he eventually returned when he’d run out of places to go.
I told him that if he wasn’t going to stay in school that he at least had to get a job and he managed to get an apprenticeship at a local butcher, but it wasn’t long before more trouble reared its’ head.
Like the phone call from the police when he tried to kick in the door at the train station because the attendant wouldn’t let him scab a ticket. Or from his boss because he’d pulled a knife on someone, near the end of the week, before payday when his stash had run out and the horrendous mood swings kicked in.
Somewhat ironically, in the interim his report card came in the mail. Despite having not attended school in months, they still passed him into the tenth grade.
We eventually gave him an ultimatum. Meet with a drug counsellor (I had found one who would meet him anywhere, anytime) or he was getting his ass kicked to the curb. He refused to do it, despite my extending the deadline three times. After the third deadline, I resolutely packed his clothes and toiletries into bags and spent an entire day scrubbing the absolute brothel he had turned his bedroom into while tears ran down my face feeling like an utter failure as a mother.
When he came home from work I presented him with his bags and said “That’s it. You’re out.”
He was incredulous that I had followed through with the consequences and he stood on the front lawn screaming at the top of his lungs that we were c*nts.
Two days after that, after watching the house to see my husband leave to go to the gym, he slipped in through the front door and confronted me, high as a kite on God knows what. He yelled and screamed abuse at me while the other kids cowered in their rooms. I told him if he didn’t get out, I would call the police but he refused to leave so I picked up the phone and called them, calling his bluff. They arrived quickly, jumping our back fence and confronted him and removed him from the premises.
After that our contact was sporadic but I heard via the grapevine that he’d gotten in more trouble with the police, lost his job and was involved in selling drugs. He would occasionally get in contact with me when he was desperate for help with something but it ended badly each time between us.
Eventually we were estranged for 7 years and I didn’t know whether he was dead or alive or if and when the day would come when the police turned up at my door to tell me he’d wrapped a car around a tree or was sitting in a jail cell.
Amazingly, this story does have a happy ending. He met and moved in with an equally troubled younger girl (whose mother allowed it). Naturally, she got pregnant but when she became a mother, she turned her life around; quit drugs and the subsequent bad behaviour and started cracking the whip on him. They struggled for a very long time in every way imaginable but he now has an excellent job that he loves, they built a home together, have two great sons and he is drug-free and happy.
He’s one of the lucky ones and I’m incredibly grateful to his (now) wife for the transformation she created that we were unable to.
If I had to do it all over again, I have no idea what I would or could have done differently. The problem is our system. He should NEVER have been granted Youth Allowance from Centrelink which enabled him to roam the streets and buy drugs. He should NEVER have been provided with a fully furnished house to live in paid for with taxpayer’s money for 6 months before he and his friends trashed the place.
And compulsory, mandatory drug rehabilitation should be the right of every parent for any child under the age of 18.
In an age of over governing where we see authorities step in to monitor our kid’s lunch boxes, how is this STILL not available?