It started with a 10:30 pm request to join my son while walking the dog on a Sunday night. It was an unusual request for my high schooler and seemed like code for a need to talk. Not more than 50 feet beyond the front door, he asks what I would do if I had a friend whose parents knew he was using drugs, but didn't know how serious the friend's drug use had become.
I asked for specifics - not about who the friend is, but about what my son thought was serious drug use. It was clearly fragile ground where my reactions would determine how comfortable my son would be in the future bringing difficult topics to me. The friend was not only smoking pot, but was popping oxy, percoset and other OTC and prescription painkillers. He had told my son that he wanted to try heroin and that he did not believe he'd live to see 20.
Was the friend safe that night? Yes.
Why didn't my son think the parents knew? Because they weren't taking radical action to get their high performing, charming boy clean. The other boy was social, academically and athletically successful - not a stereotype of any sort.
My son was a wreck. He didn't know what to do or how to help his friend. He was genuinely worried that something tragic would happen - and he could have helped. He wanted to be a good friend and maintain his friend's confidence. He had reached out to a teacher at his school to talk on Monday, but wasn't going to share the other student's name.
My son's sense of responsibility and loyalty are admirable. My heart broke for him and his friend - as well as their family. I asked my son what was worse - losing the other boy as a friend because he told the teacher his name OR the tragic event. I reminded my son that this is too heavy a burden for a child to carry alone...that it was too heavy a burden for an adult to carry alone. But if he didn't feel comfortable taking the step of sharing his friends' name with the school, I would reach out to the parents a day later. I also let the teacher and counselor know that my son had to speak with them about a student in risk - knowing that they are mandated reporters.
The good news was the other student not only got the support he needed, but upon his return home, their friendship remained strong and supportive. They're not perfect kids - but they're trying to grow up safe in a confusing, fast moving and anxious time.
I don't know where the parents found support for their son, but in the last 12 months, I know of three children of people I know needing some sort of residential therapeutic or treatment program. I was introduced to resources from The Recovery Village on Teen Addiction. I don't know the program - but resources are helpful.
Our children are living in a hyper connected, ridiculously competitive, anxiety creating era and drugs - legal like marijuana (in California for 21+) and prescription as well as illegal opiods are pervasive. Its easy to get caught up in something bigger than our kids are ready to handle. As parents, we have to create safe spaces for them to talk with us and make responsible decisions. Good luck - and it takes a village - look out for my kids and I'll look out for yours.