From the initial visit to the family physician when we were concerned about our son's sleep patterns and general lack of zest for life to early family-counseling sessions to drug-alcohol assessments and mental-health screening, the experts continued to tell us we were "doing all the right things."
There is some comfort in knowing that those more educated and experienced than we are in the complexities of addiction and substance abuse have deemed us good parents, but the voice of judgment still speaks. In time, we adjust to this parenting dynamic that none of us planned for, that none of us expected.
However, we still get caught off guard when the latest parenting guide comes -- we clamor to see what we might have done, should have done. After all, we're the parents; wasn't our responsibility to keep our kids off drugs?
Recently DrugFree.org, which offers phenomenal resources for parents and teens, published the findings of a research study that identifies six ways to help parents reduce the chance their teenage child will drink, use drugs or engage in risky behavior. When I received notice of this on Facebook and via an e-mail newsletter, I clicked to finally find out what we could have done.
Imagine my dismay and disappointment when a resource ordinarily so spot-on and helpful listed the following:
I agree with the premise of each one, but I wholeheartedly believe and have an honest report card on all these criteria -- and more -- that we "did all the right things." Even the addict himself has had ample opportunity to tell us what we did or didn't do that prompted his decision to try pot, to continue using it, and ultimately to prioritize it above all other things in his life, including his family relationships.
I mean no disrespect to the validity of the research or the credibility of DrugFree.org, but frankly it sends the wrong message. Sure, it has its caveats and says there are no guarantees that if you parent in these ways it will prevent substance abuse, and I know the content is targeted at parents of kids who are not yet using drugs or alcohol.
It's just that new DrugFree.org research creates an unsettling perspective for those of us who are parenting a kid who abuses substances, because it runs counter to what we're learning in our own recovery -- that while we have influence, we didn't cause it, we can't control it and we can't cure it.