Surrender

Twelve years. It’s taken me twelve long years to move the word “surrender” from the abstract idea column to the action column. Surrender has become an action, rather than the absence of action. It has moved columns because I have learned it is, by far, the hardest thing to do.

I have had some success with raising the white flag. I no longer have any preconceived notion of catching a thrown ball or successfully geolocating my way home from, basically, anywhere. But surrendering to the fact that I can not stop my own child from illegal drug use – that is heart-smashingly difficult. But reality keeps reminding me. I can not stop her from calling her drug dealer when she is overly anxious. I can not stop her from spending all of her savings, and neglecting car payments, rent, insurance and credit card bills – leaving her penniless (and sometimes homeless) time and time again. I can’t stop her from choosing to smoke crack because her sublocade shot prevents an opiate high. I can’t stop her from laying in bed for days on end after buying designer benzodiazepines from dark web shopping malls. I can not stop her from slowly – or quickly – killing herself. I want to stop her. There is nothing more that I want to stop.

Surrendering is not a new concept in the world of addiction. It’s literally step one of the Big Book. To move forward an addict must admit they are “powerless over drugs and alcohol.” This sort of surrendering is not just word play. It requires deeply accepting the insanity of their situation: admitting years wasted trying to manage, control, deny or ignore the disease. It’s the hardest, most essential, step.

Well it appears that us loved ones have to do it too. Not just pretend to do it. Or half-heartedly do it. I have to admit I can not will her to sobriety. I can not find the perfect rehab. Or a psychiatrist with a magic wand. I can not make her use her “recovery tool box.” I am helpless. Twelve long years have taught me this. Step one of the Al-Anon Big Book requires “admitting we are powerless.” Powerless meaning letting go of any misconception of control. And then actually stopping the manic, obsessive searching for the Holy Grail. So many of us admit we can’t solve it, but then spend endless hours actively trying to solve it! The stakes are so high: it’s hard to stop oneself. But after a certain amount of time we must. And, most worrisome, we must stop any future projection of everlasting wellness for our loved one. We must accept what is. It is not up to us – no matter how much we want it, work on it or wish for it.

We must surrender.
Not “sort of” surrender.

Here’s the difference though: They must let go to live.
We must let go of wanting them to live.

And that’s a very big difference.

Hippy-Dippy Drug Days.

Do you remember when the local drug dealer was the high school kid with the chalk-painted Camaro who smoked during math class? Or maybe it was the friend twice removed who would set up lines of coke in shiny bathrooms of boom-boom-boom nightclubs? How about the neighborhood kid who rode his bike around town to deliver a mishmash of badly rolled joints? You would think to yourself, “Jesus Christ, am I the only one who knows what is going on around here?!”

I am not trying to make light of drug dealing…but it was kind of quaint. It was simple. It was local. It was a much naughtier version of the farm to table movement.

The latest way for teen’s to acquire drugs is through the snapchat app. Snapchat’s mascot is a small ghost: “now you see me, now you don’t.” Rather than being a cute play on peek-a-boo, it is meant to highlight the disappearing nature of texts. There is no paper trail, no electronic trace, no phone record…nothing to help you deduce why your child is writhing on their bedroom floor in a drug induced psychosis. Or worse yet, not even moving. This is a big problem for parents, and an even bigger problem for law enforcement.

One thing is certain: kids are still going to experiment. So absent a time machine, what are we supposed to do?

First, acknowledge the difference.

I have heard many parents say “It’s a rite of passage…I did it too in high school.”‘ Umm… no you didn’t. Marijuana in the 60s had a THC content of 2%, in the 90s it was 4%. Today’s weed is 200% stronger. THC derivatives like dabs, oil and shatter can contain THC content north of 95%.* Sadly, the higher the THC the lower the CBD content, and CBD has been shown to mitigate damage caused by THC to the brain’s hippocamus.** So if you are a reformed teenage pothead think twice before assuming your child’s brain is undergoing the same neurological “fun-fest.”

I am also surprised that parents willingly serve underage kids. Their justification? Learning how to “handle alcohol in my house is safer than the alternative.” But there is nothing safe about sharing alcohol with teens. Today’s research has proven there is a link between early drinking and a lifetime of addiction. We didn’t know it back then, but we know plenty about brain science now. We also know that parental disapproval is the number one reported reason teens put off drinking.*** (So why blow that safety measure?) Yes, some of us safely snuck a few beers in high school; but it’s important to realize that todays teens disproportionately binge drink. (Sadly, in my highly educated town, 17% of high schoolers reported binge drinking within the last 30 days.) Kids also have access to higher alcohol beers and very quaffable “fruit punch” flavored hard seltzers. Most of them have easier access to cars. It’s not as rosy as adult memories may suggest. So why romanticize it?

And let’s return to that teen smoking marlboros next to his camaro. It’s now a vape pen. Vape pens may not contain tobacco but they are still highly addictive and still contain cancer causing chemicals including VOCs, Diacetyl and formaldehyde. And realize that, just like marijuana and alcohol, our kids are getting “more bang for their buck.” A single e-cartridge is the equivalent of an entire pack of cigarettes. And they can be discretely smoked right in class – teachers can’t even smell them! Thanks big tobacco for developing a product that helps our kids avoid detention and comes in so many delicious fruit flavors!

For God’s sake the playing field is not the same.
So let’s stop saying it is.

* National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, PMID: 30643324
** Harms, Protection and Recovery Following Regular Cannabis Use, pub.med.gov PMCID: PMC5068875
***NIAAA.NIH.Gov: publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/make-a-difference-child-alcohol