Not. My. Kid.
Advice for Desperate Parents about your Child’s Addiction, from a Former Homecoming Queen Turned Drug Addict
by: Kelli Athas
High school homecoming queen. Cheerleader. I was beautiful, bright-eyed, popular, and had every advantage. I came from a good, solid family who loved me. I had friends with the same goals and morals I had been taught and I loved being with them. I could see a future that shined bright with opportunity. Then I made a choice that changed my life forever.
I am a recovering drug addict.
I have walked the streets with prostitutes. I have been kidnapped, burned with cigarettes, and came very close to death due to the demons I couldn’t understand and couldn’t control. I lived the nightmare you fear for your child. I have done things to get high that I am deeply ashamed of. I understand desperation…hopelessness. I have been to hell, and by an unfathomable grace I not only survived, but today I’m thriving.
If you feel or fear your child is a drug addict or addicted to anything (including alcohol, sex, or even an unhealthy, dangerous relationship) you are in a desperate place right now. I understand. I have breathed inside your son or daughter’s skin. I have been consumed, eaten alive, with a force that was a thousand times greater than me…a force that, right now is consuming your child’s body, heart, mind, and soul. Inside every hour of every day I was addicted to drugs, my mother and my family tried to help me; they hoped, cried, prayed and lived a frantic existence of worry and fear. If you are the parent of an addict you likely feel just as out of control as the addict you so desperately want to help. You want to cure your baby. Unfortunately you cannot cure this person you love.
Perhaps accepting the fact that there is no cure, no quick fix that will make everything go back to your “normal” family life is the first step toward strength and clarity for you. There is an overabundance of well-intentioned (and many non-well-intentioned) people advertising quick methods that will change your loved one’s life, make them get off drugs and become whole again. The reality is there is no one that can cure addiction. But there are ways to bring them to a place where they can see the destruction and chaos they are creating for not only themselves, but their loved ones. An addict must first face up to their addiction and admit they need help. And many times they need help getting to that place. They will need to find a support group that best fits their needs and stick with it. Recovery is a journey not a destination. The insanity and chaos that is imbued in addiction toys with emotions, and feelings become erratic and unpredictable. This is one of the reasons it is vitally important to seek an objective point of view from someone who’s been in an addict’s shoes, in their skin, someone you trust to give you and your family hope and guidance.
I am still so saddened when I remember the pure exhaustion and desperation on my mother’s face when she would look at me during my struggle. She wanted so much for me to overcome this disease, but it would be a long road to recovery for me. I’ve been in treatment several times. I got out of my first rehab in 1996 and my mom thought the nightmare was over and life would go back to “normal.” No one explained this is a lifelong journey, a battle for me and for her. Honestly, the greatest lesson I learned in my first stint in rehab was that I needed to hide my addiction better. I never thought of myself like the others in rehab; they were failures that I perceived as low. Some whored their bodies to get money in order to buy drugs; others stole from their parents and kind-hearted friends. I was nothing like this…then. But after leaving the recovery program and turning back to my toxic patterns, I realized in the blink of an eye that I was lying to myself – I was exactly like them. And everything I’d heard that disgusted me at the time were only “yet’s” for someone like me who refused to become open-minded and lose the superiority complex.
Addiction manifests itself in many ways. Manipulation and deception are huge indicators of trouble to come. Parents, be vigilant – teens know how to manipulate. In my senior year of high school I was voted “Miss Smooth Talker”…I considered this an accomplishment. However, the title should’ve been “Miss Manipulator” because that’s exactly what I had become. I thought “just one time for fun” would be just one time for fun – but instead it kick-started an all-consuming lust to chase that first high. It’s an indisputable fact that a high rate of teens begin their alcohol & drug use at this pivotal age in their life, as a parent it is an excruciatingly frightening scenario. No one can predict it and no one knows what they’ll do unless they’re in it themselves. It’s common to want to give your child the benefit of the doubt. Praying it’s only a phase, and for many it may be just that. But if your child has been experimenting and because of it they receive some adverse consequences, such as being suspended from school and they continue to use, that is when serious action should be to be taken. If you don’t seek help your taking the risk that they will fall into the vicious cycle of addiction.
Educating families & kids about addiction is not easy. My advice to you: get in their face. Ask them the uncomfortable questions, and if they try to blow you off, if they try to justify their reasons or manipulate you, do not budge. If you’re not talking to your kids about drugs, someone will. Find out who their friends are. Find out where they hang out, what they do after-school. Protect them when they don’t know enough to protect themselves.
The social stigma of “not my child, they’re smarter than that” is not enough and will not help you help them. If your son or daughter has a problem with addiction my advice to you is dig deep for strength, draw it from your love for them, and walk beside them through their journey toward recovery without expectation and without judgment. Be their parent, their cheerleader and the person they can trust most in the world. And no matter how dark it gets and how much they struggle to run away from you, never let them go.
Kelli Athas and her husband Nick are certified national drug and alcohol interventionists. She and her husband are the founders of Intercept Interventions, a program which helps families through the intervention process. Kelli is a highly sought after drug and alcohol recovery expert and works with churches, courts, child protection services’ case managers and school administrators to mentor teens struggling with drug and alcohol addiction. They also speak regularly about drug awareness, prevention, and education. They have created a unique curriculum for their interventions and a workshop entitled “Not.My.Kid.” in order to spread the message that addiction can happen to ANYONE. To contact Kelli and Nick Athas please visit www.interceptinterventions.com or contact their toll free number 877-744-3578.