Monday, May 26, 2014

Outside Our Journeys - Testing

"Panic is our great enemy." ~ Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go

Occasionally I will post on issues that arise outside of our immediate pathway journeys. These are real-world distractions that are important, but may divert us from our focus. Please read on … 

Our community drug and alcohol awareness coalition is quite accomplished at maintaining focus and keeping our egos out of the discussions we have regarding keeping kids safe and educating the at-large community about adolescent addiction.

Our focus doesn't waiver, even amid the myriad of causes and issues that come our way. It's not that we endorse human trafficking. Embracing causes that are noble yet not in our immediate purview would dilute our effectiveness. We have enough on our plate without spreading our battle lines too sparsely and we are extremely conscious of not becoming "political."

This lack of ego when setting objectives among board members has been the most astonishing aspect of my involvement with this group and was made evident during a discussion about drug testing.

Drug testing is often though of as the ultimate first line of defense for parents struggling with the onset of addiction in their families. The coalition board members calmly debated this volatile issue in earnest, listening intently and respectfully to each point of view. Our board is partially comprised of a father of an addict, a mother of children ranging in age from high school into college, another mother of adolescents who is also a social worker for a neighboring county's prevention coalition, and two employees of a national drug and alcohol awareness association who through the grace of God continue to mentor, nurture and see potential in our barely burgeoning coalition.

All of us are painfully aware of the need for coalitions like ours for the health and welfare of our entire community. Not everyone in our immediate sphere of influence see us in this way. If it's not their problem, well, it's not their problem.

But I digress.

Each of us brings our experience, strengths and hopes and passions to the group. The drug testing issue brought out a plethora of these in the span of a brief ten-minute dialogue.

Our social worker mom expressed her belief that children should be drug tested and that an irregular testing schedule is an effective deterrent to teens straying into substance abuse. We shared knowledge of various local schools, private mostly, that have attempted to corral the issue. The measures employed include testing only the jocks and only during the students' in-season time, testing of all kids in activities and one local school district that performs random universal testing.

We can all draw our own conclusions on the mixed messages inherent with these various methods, but all the coalition members agreed that along with parents, the schools have a tough road to travel in this regard.

I offered my own experiences about our son's drug test results lighting up like a Christmas tree and all of us, (mom, dad, counselor) going into deep denial about the results. I also reminded everyone of a mother in attendance at a past coalition meeting who proudly told us all that she stands in the bathroom with her son and tells him to "pea in the cup."

I shared that I had nothing to say to that mom out of respect of the struggle I knew she was experiencing, although I knew I should have told her that she is risking the loss of a gift all parents can give themselves. The gift is the ability to be a sounding board for their teens' thoughts, anxieties, fears, joys and victories. I ended my contribution to the discussion by stating my belief that it is a fine line in the sand a parent must draw that divides our roles as mentors and guides, moms and dads, and that of watchdog, Mother and Father. I went on to explain this fine line has everything to do with self esteem and allowing our kids to find their own ways in an enabling society, allowing them to learn and hopefully flourish from their experiences.

Our NCADA mentors brought us full circle with some real data about correlations between drug testing, early intervention and addiction. They always bring with them these clinical real-world snippets of information - that's why we love them!

At the end we agreed as a coalition to endorse a suggestion to parents to have drug testing kits visible in the household and to be prepared to utilize the kits if they feel the need. This came with another suggestion to use the kit placement to have an open, nonjudgmental and calm discussion about underage drinking and substance abuse with their pre-teens and teens - which is an overarching message to parents in all session we have.

To say this was a major breakthrough for the coalition is an understatement, but pales to the thought process and personal breakthroughs all of us made as parents as a result of this discussion. As coalition members we coalesced into a more unified and gentle group to serve our community.

Then as if on cue the 800-pound gorilla appeared in the corner of our chairperson's living room conjured by thoughts percolating within all of us.

The gorilla wore a white tee shirt with these words screen printed on the front:

SO YOUR TEEN JUST TESTED POSITIVE 
FOR DRUGS OR ALCOHOL 

On the back, in larger letters:

SO
NOW
WHAT?

And so begins a new parental journey …

… keep coming back