Please, do not rest assured for even one second that your discussions with your kids about the dangers of drug use and addiction, the devastation drugs have on families, the waste of his or her future and life, are enough.
Absolutely you are doing your job as a parent with these discussions and deserve credit. But your tween or teen can so easily be groomed, swayed, coerced, embarrassed, challenged to “just try it, you’ll like it, join in,” in so many ways. So please be on red alert for your kids, every day.
Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because last week I witnessed a young man destroying himself and his life, and it’s shaken me.
It was last Thursday, 1:30 in the afternoon. I was on a treadmill at the Lewis Centre gym, looking out over the baseball fields, tennis courts, lazy river, trees, all soaking up the sun. Just below me in one of the baseball dugouts, I notice a thin young man with a dark, curly head of hair, wearing baggy jeans and a dark jacket; he doesn’t look even 18 years old. He’s pacing in small circles, agitated, angrily talking to himself, shaking over and over something in his hand. He’s so close I can see that it’s a syringe. And he’s so focused on this, and so out of it, he has no idea he has an audience.
Stunned, I watch as he sits on the bench, pulls up the left sleeve of his jacket and tries to inject himself. He keeps jabbing his skin in different spots. But doesn’t seem to manage it and jumps up, annoyed, and continues shaking the syringe. He sits again, pulls up the sleeve on his right arm and does the same thing. No success. Then he pulls up the left leg of his jeans and tries to find an injection spot on his calf.
I can’t stand watching him any longer and get off the treadmill to find a staff member. I tell her we need to call a street worker or someone that can come and check on this boy and help him. She looks out the window for a minute, agrees, and leaves to make a call. I can’t watch this boy continue his injection attempts, and go over to another part of the gym without windows. Later the assistant tells me they called the police and an officer came, then an ambulance, and the boy was taken to the hospital. He is someone’s son, grandson, maybe a brother or nephew. I can’t get him out of my mind for days.
It’s one week later, this morning. I’m again at the gym. The same assistant tells me that about an hour after the ambulance left with the boy last week, a group of five boys arrived to the same spot. Among them was an older boy/man, the dealer? He appeared to be slipping these kids drugs, encouraging them to join in the group, use, making it seem like a party. This is happening on an afternoon in a public park in full view. She immediately called the police again who returned to the field, and she said it looked like the boys, or the older guy, were given tickets. Tickets? I’m speechless.
This afternoon to be more informed, I look up some studies and reports on substance use and abuse by our youth in this country, and the “Whys.” It saddens and shocks me to realize that what I witnessed from the gym window last week is only a glimpse into what is now happening in our community and society. It seems that awareness and prevention, to be effective, has to start really early with our kids. Parents have to be so vigilant. I can’t image the worry.