How Personal Stories Can Help Fight Teen Pressure to Use Drugs

microphone in front of a blurred crowdOver the last year, I have been making an effort to speak with parent and student groups about the effects of addiction on a person and all of those associated with someone suffering from addiction.

While my son was actively using drugs, my activity concerning this subject irritated him. It made him uncomfortable and angry.  For some reason, he did not want me speaking to groups. Maybe it made him feel embarrassed or ashamed, I was never sure.

My son has been working on his recovery and hasn’t used for six months. For me, this is quite an accomplishment to see someone struggling with a heroin addiction make such a huge turnaround in his life. It’s hard to believe that only six months ago, he was speed-balling and his mother and I were discussing the fatal outcome of those engaged in this activity. Hope springs eternal.

Recently, I was asked to speak to students at our local high school about the effects of drugs on young people. When I told my son I was going to speak, he asked if he could go with me and speak to them first-hand about what drugs have done to him. This is a HUGE step for anyone in recovery. Facing their addiction head on and in front of a group takes courage.

We spoke to about 50 students that were in the age group of 14-15 years old.  My son is only 22. When he began to talk and answer questions about drugs and his addiction, the students were riveted by him. You could almost feel an electric connection between him and the students. His message was direct and in a language that they understood. He showed them scars on his arms caused by infections from dirty needles. He talked about what it is like in jail, going through detox in a cell. He spoke of the opportunities he lost and missed out on, regarding college, jobs, and relationships. One of his more powerful statements during his speech in response to a question was, “I started because I wanted to be cool. This is not cool, this is the worst thing you could ever do in your life. Using drugs leads to addiction and I can’t even describe how horrible that is.”

This format of an experienced young adult speaking to a group of teens is the most powerful weapon I have seen to open teens eyes about the risks of using drugs and alcohol. Let’s face it, I’m just another old guy telling these kids not to use drugs, but when someone in their age group stands there and tells a personal story with all of the graphic details — that is called bringing out the heavy artillery.

By sharing his personal story, he helped the kids connect the hazards of drug usage.  Since my son is close to their age and has “been there done that,” it helped inspire the high schoolers to think differently about the consequences of the choices they make.

Education about the dangers of drug and alcohol use is all about being relatable. No matter who it is– parents, relatives, friends, professionals or peers, the key to helping your child fight the pressure to use is through education. Give them a way out of those pressured situations. Do not be naive or believe that your child will not be exposed to the opportunity of using drugs. Every single young person out there has to make a decision about whether or not to try using drugs or alcohol. Parents– take the offensive. Do not wait until the monster has entered your home. Slaying this monster is about educating its prey, before he has a chance to attack.

By the way, I want every person that reads this to know; I cannot remember a time where I was more proud of my son. I stood up at the end of the presentation in front of all of those kids and told them with my voice cracking, how proud I was of him to come speak with me.

Prevention Tips for Every Age

Like any relationship, your relationship with your child changes over time.  For ways to talk to your child about drugs at every age, please visit our prevention tips page.

clip art of parents and children holding hands
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    Rosanna Dolengewicz

    September 17, 2016 at 4:55 PM

    My son is a heroin addict and has been for the past two years. He has been to two treatment centers for 30 days at each one. As soon he came back it started again.He is 22 years old and I dont know what to do. I send him away and it starts again. This time he does not want to go and is an adult so I cant force the issue What can I do?

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    Ron Grover

    January 3, 2011 at 8:57 PM

    Dear Tambi,

    I am so happy for you and your awakening to a life free of drugs. It is admirable of you wanting to help others. This is an important step in your recovery, at least it is very important to my son and his recovery.

    I encourage you to work with youths and use your story and life to reach out. Young people need first person accounts of what drugs are and do to a person. Please let us know how it goes and for you and for those you touch.

    Thank you so much for your message of hope.

    Ron Grover

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