Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Heroin In Our Backyard

Heroin. Even just typing it out feels weird. Who knew it would actually be an epidemic in the county I grew up in and live in today? Definitely not me. And I consider myself pretty savvy and up on current trends. But heroin?

Everyone wants someone to blame. Kids are dead and people want to point fingers. The parents! The friends! School! Money, time, freedom, age, nature, nurture, maturity, thrill-seeking, you name it. It's all a big cauldron of witches brew that contributes to addiction. If we had all the answers, we'd have eliminated addiction by now. But as a former social worker, I can tell you my truth. When you're dealing with people, body chemistry, feelings, and the whole being, there are no hard and fast answers. No definite solutions. It's really a roulette game and you have to just do your best to be aware. Really aware. Not, "I know my kid" aware, but really KNOW your kid, aware. Even if you think it's a violation of their privacy. I'll say it right here- I'm fine with being one of those parents who feels like you can have privacy when you pay all your own bills and live under your own roof.

I also know there are no guarantees and no fool proof ways of keeping your kids from temptation. So the only other thing I can come up with is education and open dialogue. Even at five, I do my best to make sure E isn't particularly sheltered. That's MY way of doing things. It was sort of my parents way of doing things that I felt they did right. Nothing was ever taboo to talk about in my house. I never felt like there was anything I couldn't tell my mother. I hope E will feel that way about B and I.

Thing is though, I think it was more my personality than how I was parented that kept me from doing "hard" drugs or drinking. I was self-confident, which might be odd for a teenager but indicative of a true Leo. I was also boy crazy.  I also have and always had a strong personality. I never wanted to do something because everyone else is doing it. If anything, my natural proclivity is toward doing the opposite of what everyone is doing. Or just to do what works for me.  I didn't want to sit in the dark woods drinking when I could be at Paramus Park meeting boys from other towns. I didn't want to ruin my art of scintillating conversation by being drunk. And honestly, I really just didn't like the taste of alcohol. I've still never drank a beer in my life at age 39. I don't know if it was that my parents really didn't drink so it wasn't part of my growing up in a cultural sense, but I've never craved alcohol. I tried. I just couldn't get it down. If beer or wine literally tasted like jelly beans, then we'd have something. It doesn't.

I tried marijuana after my ex-boyfriend/close friend (I don't really know what to call what our relationship was at the time) died in a freak car accident when I was fifteen years old. I didn't much care about anything going on around me and it was offered to me. But what was offered to me was what I'd call "hippie pot". Not the pot of today laced with who knows what. I knew who I was getting it from and I knew it was just pot. And I smoked on weekends if it was around. My friends and I did stupid things like smoke it out in public where we could've gotten arrested but we didn't drive high, and *I* didn't feel it necessary to do anything harder than that. When I got to college, I just stopped. It wasn't available in the circles I hung out in so it just wasn't worth the trouble to find. I don't have an addictive personality. For substances. Candy and shopping are another story. But I suppose everyone has their "thing". Luckily, my vices can't kill me.

There were always rumors of people doing acid or cocaine in my hometown. I never saw it. I always sort of flitted from group to group never really sticking to any one clique. So if people were doing acid or coke, it never was something in my eye line. As I said, I was boy crazy. I usually had a boyfriend, who was older, in another town. I had friends all over but no one ever offered me what would've been considered hard drugs. The car accident that killed my ex-boyfriend wasn't due to drugs or alcohol, it was excessive speed to get to the video store in town before it closed. Just not "that kind" of crowd.

People drank. They smoked pot. I guess they did acid and some coke. I never heard the word heroin. Heroin was for movies like Where the Day Takes You and Gia. Heroin was the scary unknown that the girl Kristin Marsh in Toughlove, the Afterschool Special with Jason Patric from 1985. I guess heroin was taboo them because shooting up was the only way to do it and doing that was crossing some kind of line for middle class white kids. I don't know. I guess because it can be smoked or there are pills to just throw back, it's easier and it's less..."trashy" or whatever than the idea of the street junkie with tracks up and down their arms. That's the only explanation I can come up with as to why it seems like such a nonchalant thing to do now. There's no shame in it like the old back alley type of thing us "oldies" might think of when we hear the word heroin.

I guess we have to change the words we use when teaching our kids not to tattle. They learn as little kids that no one likes a tattle-tale. But we have to be specific and drive the point home that this problem is life or death and by "tattling" you're doing everyone a huge favor. And we have to stick together as parents instead of pointing fingers or worrying about people gossiping. People talk. About serious things and about the superficial. You just can't care about the gossip and care more about the possibility of saving someone's life. We have to get rid of the "mind your business" attitude we've taken as a society. It's funny- people have no problem telling strangers how to parent when it comes to breastfeeding or getting a kid to go to sleep. But when it really matters, like telling someone to watch their kid for drugs or sharing their child's addiction story, everything becomes hush-hush.

I'd heard about how rampant Meth is in middle America. We watched Breaking Bad. I never knew of Meth being a big thing around Bergen County. It just seemed like someone else's problem. Now we've been put on notice. We have our own big problem. Hopefully we'll be able to do something about it now.

I don't even know why I'm writing this. I'm just sad today after reading all these articles about dead kids, dead moms, dead everyone. I'm disheartened and scared that it was the father of a local teen that was running a virtual pharmacy out of his home and dealing to his kids' friends. I'm disappointed in the friends and friends of friends who are letting their peers die instead of telling someone, anyone, what's going on. I'm angry that they don't seem to be learning anything from their friends deaths and going back to the party within days. I don't have the answers. For me, it's just a reminder to really be aware. Not a helicopter parent. To me, there's a difference. Give them their freedom but give it knowing you also know everything that's going on. That's the only way I know how to be. The lesson I've come away with is the vow to be part of the solution, whatever that happens to be.

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