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Published on Mommy Tracked (http://www.mommytracked.com)

When Your Kids Ask If You've Tried Drugs...

Now that I have three teenagers, illegal drugs seem everywhere.  Philip Seymour Hoffman’s fatal heroin overdose.  Meth production glamorized on television. The heroin epidemic in New England where the kids’ favorite aunt lives. 

It’s not my imagination: Oprah even chose the subject for the premiere of OprahPrime [1] last Sunday night. 

It doesn't help that marijuana is becoming less and less illegal every day.  And closer to home, literally. A few days ago, my hometown, Washington, DC, voted to eliminate jail time [2] for marijuana possession. As any parent knows, it’s hard to argue with kids that they shouldn’t do something when there is no possibility of punishment.

The topic of illegal drug use is particularly troublesome for me as a parent because I used illegal drugs as a teenager growing up in Washington in the 1970s and early 80s.  It’s been 30 years since then, but I still consider myself an addict. I don’t drink or use drugs today and I have immense respect for how destructive (and seductive) they can be.  My kids know all this. 

Which makes it harder – and more important – to talk to them about why drugs and alcohol are so dangerous for them today.  This is the parenting dilemma of our age: how to pass on our hard-earned wisdom about alcohol and drugs, without oversharing or undersharing with our children the details of just how we got that wisdom.  I simply tell my kids the truth – I loved alcohol and drugs, they took over my life and made me do idiotic, destructive things, I was lucky to kick them, and I hope to never let them back into my life again.

Telling the truth is painful. But in some ways, the most difficult chapter for me is not to glamorize my own drug and alcohol adventures.  Part of the truth is that I had great drunken and stoned times with wonderful friends who are still my close friends. That’s why alcohol and drugs were so seductive.  The good times were indeed good – until I began drinking alone, lying to my friends and family and myself about my usage, and worst of all, ending up in bars, cars, and other places (including a few beds) I was disgusted to find myself in. 

Not my favorite topics – and not easy stories for my kids to hear about their mom.

As usual when I find myself in sticky parenting dilemmas, I turn to celebrities for help.  Just like Oprah does!

Over the past month, I used my kitchen bulletin board to post the following thought-provoking quotes where the children would see them 10 times a day (and where hopefully they would enter their brains and provoke at least a few thoughts):

Actress Nicole Richie, who got hooked on heroin and cocaine as a teenager:  “It was the epitome of caring about absolutely nothing.”

British comedian and actor Russell Brand: “The last time I thought about taking heroin was yesterday.”

Hollywood screenwriter and producer Aaron Sorkin: “Phil Hoffman did not die from an overdose of heroin - he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.”

I try to use these quotes to talk to my kids about the dangerous of marijuana today, despite its increasing legality and medical merits, and to warn them off all drug and alcohol related siren songs.

Does it work?  I don’t know. 

I’m in that fingers-crossed stage of parenting right now.

The best quote is still one that comes out of my own mouthModernMom [3].


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