"We have the best government that money can buy." ~ Mark TwainRecently, one of our network news local affiliates reported a story both shocking and not totally unexpected.
A sting operation partially funded by a county drug and alcohol awareness coalition and conducted by that county's law enforcement agency revealed that 34 percent of retail establishments tested sold alcohol to minors. This sting, as with others funded by local law enforcement elsewhere was done by the book. There was no coercion or pressure. The underage (actually youthful-looking legal-age plants) were either sold the liquor or were refused. The plants were wired - everything documented.
And that is where everything stopped. There was no follow up, no fines or citations, no liquor license suspensions.
It became apparent that the great State of Missouri has neither the funding nor the inclination to enforce a law put on the books for a specific reason. As guardian of what its citizens hold dear the state has decided that curbing, or at least impeding underage drinking isn't important.
I was first introduced to this story by a few friends who are part of the coalition involved in the sting. As a parent of a child struggling with addiction and a friend to many of you who are in similar situations I was absolutely floored. I was at work when I received the email with its accompanying news feed. "Oh my God," were the words I voiced, loud enough for anyone who might be walking by my office to hear.
Fortunately there was nobody within earshot of my proclamation although this was something I would have gladly shared with my colleagues.
What does it mean to those affected by addiction that the guardians of social mandates are either too busy, overextended or underfunded to support what we as citizens feel is important? Do we throw our hands up in despair and abandon our journeys? Are we all fighting some sort of quixotic crusade to maintain sanity in spite of states' inability or disinclination to enforce existing laws, or, many state legislatures' insistence on legalizing controlled substances?
Sometimes it may seem as though we are losing our minds. Sometimes it may seem like we're alone on our journeys.
Well, we're not, and … we're not. It is important to remember that the journey we are on is ours, not our children's and certainly not a journey travelled with state agencies.
It is also important to note that the social media comments to this story began with shock and support of the efforts of local law enforcement, then deteriorated into calls for parents to "clean house" and "control" their kids.
That is simply not the point. Control we know doesn't work and certainly has no effect, especially with the tacit consent of states to allow underage drinking and hence other substance abuse. This is about the information an adolescent requires for its developing brain to draw seemingly logical conclusions:
If the vendors don't care, and the police don't care (they do, but have no real enforcement authority over the vendors) and the state doesn't care, then alcohol must be okay! And have you heard they're thinking about legalizing pot!This all contributes to the seeming inability of adolescents to heed warnings about underage drinking while recent states-sponsored legalization of marijuana convinces kids that pot "isn't that bad."
It is okay to become incensed, dismayed and angry by all of this as long as we transform these feelings into a catalyst for voicing our displeasure to local politicians. We can have measured and impassioned discussions with friends and let them know how we feel. Our personal stake in this game can amplify the dialogue.
We must guard against having our journeys diverted by the ineptitude of government. Our pathways cannot be blocked by issues outside our journeys. We can maintain our new-found levels of serenity at all costs continuing to grow and improve ourselves. We can use experience gained during our journeys to coolly insert facts and real-world life experience into interaction with friends, family, our children who brought us to recovery and those who did not. We can add a calmness to the discussion.
We can refuse to contribute to discussions of the absurd. We can be gentle voices of experience and continue on our recovery journeys.
And as we grow so may our children.
And perhaps, possibly, our elected officials.
But don't hold your breath!