Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Must They Die in Vain?


Life is precious, and I can't let my thoughts about the sad demise of Whitney Houston go by unmentioned. There are no definitive reports as to her cause of death, but I think the assumption that drugs were involved, whether directly or indirectly, would not be amiss. At the very least, years of substance abuse likely damaged her health to the point where she was susceptible to losing her life so early.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, using drugs or alcohol to alter my perception of reality goes against my beliefs. In fact, drinking and drugging are out of the question for observant Mormons, which protects many of us and our children from the ravages of that particular addiction. However, it does not protect all, because the freedom of choice which is our birthright still allows every individual to make his or her own personal decision.

In the interest of respecting and protecting privacy, I will not mention names or details in sharing with you that my family has been touched by the destructive forces of drug/alcohol addiction. I have seen the consequences with my own eyes, and the definition of devastating is to watch mood-altering substances take over a person's body and soul, changing a loving, honorable person into a mere shadow of his or her former self. This unspeakable horror, the epitome of evil in this world, is a tragedy for everyone concerned, and I hate it beyond my power to express.

In June of 1971, Richard Nixon officially declared a "war on drugs," citing drug abuse as "public enemy number one." I think he identified the aggressor correctly, but it's plain to see that a war on drugs conducted by the government has not been able to get the job done. What is essentially a moral battle cannot be fought with laws only. Rather, individuals and families must wage this war...and it must be fought in the hearts and in the minds of every man and woman, every parent and child. Vulnerability to drugs begins in the spirit, and the best defense is having a healthy one.

Love and example are powerful teachers, and while they cannot alter personal choice, they can certainly influence it. A strong family (where freedom is encouraged within the limits of reasonable and firmly enforced parental boundaries) is a bonus...as is allowing a child to assume the natural and/or justly applied consequences of behavior whenever possible. Refusing to "fix" everything that goes wrong in a young person's life creates numerous opportunities for him to realize that certain behavior brings certain results. It also allows ample room to develop much-needed coping skills and engenders the self esteem that comes from acting upon the world independently. In addition, children should be taught to understand, accept, and express their feelings, while being encouraged to channel them in non-destructive ways. All of these things, offered in an atmosphere of love and personal responsibility, increase resilience and even forge some armor.

I also believe it is essential to gift our children with a strong spiritual foundation and practice, whatever form that might take. Of course, there is no guarantee that this will keep them off the path of substance abuse, but it does place an anchor in the soul that can help a person find his way back from the abyss that is addiction, just as his family can provide the necessary tether.

In more general terms, we can all fight the moral war on drugs by speaking up, reaching out, and chipping in. Our society is sick, and we really do have to be the change we wish to see in the world. We can use our voices by avoiding media that glorifies drug use, refusing to laugh at jokes that minimize that behavior, talking turkey with other parents who seem to view experimentation as just another phase of adolescence, and forming alliances with those who agree that drugs are a scourge on our society. What's more, if we really want to see our culture's attitude toward substance abuse change, we need to walk the walk by using moderation ourselves. I'm not saying everyone has to become a teetotaler, not even close, but I can't count the times I have attended parties in the workplace where grown, professional men and women have behaved like frat kids, drinking their way to stumbling steps, slurred speech, and sick stomachs. What can possibly be the point of placing oneself beyond having fun...especially when you can't even remember anything the next day...or if you do remember, you're not proud of the memory?

The thing is, it matters. What we do matters. A society is defined by the way people behave...and yesterday's taboo can easily become today's tradition. Has the use of substances become a tradition in our country? Yes. Has the abuse of substances become a tradition? I fear that it has, and I fear the results as well. Families are destroyed, people forfeit their lives, and our nation is weakened. We are losing too much and too many...with too little resistance.

So, my friends. Here comes the thought question. Are we fighting the good fight...doing everything we can to make a difference? Or are we being complacent...onlookers only? Or worse, enablers?

One thing is certain. To do nothing at all is a choice in itself.

20 comments:

yaya said...

Very powerful and so true. We like to think that we are free to do whatever we want because it's "not hurting anyone else"..forgetting that every life has a ripple effect. What we or others do does impact lives around us. Our family has also suffered the results of drug abuse. One member was murdered because of drugs. I see it in my work much too often. I shudder when we deliver a baby to parents who are drug abusers. What will that child have to overcome, or how will they end up some day? The body does not do well over time when it's been over drugged..or when alcohol reeks havoc. This is a long comment, and I apologize but I'm so happy that I have not had this monkey on my own back and I just wish it could be easy to help others. But we can't ever give up the fight. It starts with us..just one person can make a difference. Thanks for sharing this post Sue.

karen said...

Well, you know where I stand. You are completely correct. It's hard to be tough. We as parents want to fix things. But there comes a point when people have to stand on their own and fix things on their own. And the entire family has to be united in the effort - no one enabling to "make it better." Taking responsibility is the first key step. And for some people, that is a really hard concept to grasp, because sometimes it comes with a fair amount of pain and tears.

Grandma Honey said...

I think it starts with simple things like not getting in the habit of turning to pharmaceuticals for every ache and pain. I think we need to be that example for our children and grandchildren. And just as the drug culture has taken off, so has alternative medicine...so we do have choices available for us all.

RobinfromCA said...

Well said. They have started running an ad campaign on TV about parents being enablers. It's time to remind parents where they need to stand and that they need to stand firm. Our job is to be a parent - not a best friend. Kids have enough friends.

Gail said...

Powerful as Yaya said!!

Brilliant and so very true.

anitamombanita said...

This was a tremendous post...and a tremendously important one. Oh, where to begin? First off, it's a fine line (and a disappearing one) between illicit drug use and prescription drug use these days...somehow people need to understand that drugs taken without true medical need can quickly lead to addiction. Second, people need to educate themselves on how NOT to be enablers and not to coddle those with addictions but to help them by helping them face the reality of their addiction. And third through whatever, we need to love our kids and help them to see the value of choosing good friends, staying away from risky situations and risky behavior, etc etc etc.... too many good lives are being thrown away to the scourge of drugs and alcohol. Too many families are being destroyed by it. Too many future generations are being impacted by it. Enough!

Stacy Crawford said...

Your pen is always on the right path...

I have seen drug abuse in our family as well. The person "grew" out of it after a lot of help and jail.

I hope my children and grandchildren avoid these huge pitfalls in life. Addiction is a hard thing to break.

Brian Miller said...

it does matter...and you know there was a day i danced the edge with this...i escaped alive but...and i have seen it touch far too many lives...i do neither drugs are alcohol now...well maybe one beer a year or so...i am not opposed to sharing one if it will cross the bridge to someone you know...

BECKY said...

I, too, am feeling sad about Whitney Houston. I know that people of all incomes can get drugs, but the Super Rich have so much money, they can get them anytime, anywhere. I blame(d) Bobby Brown for a lot of this, but in the end...it was always Whitney's choices and decisions.....

Stef said...

I think we need to talk to kids as frankyly as Satan presents the temptation to them. We are doing them no favors to speak vaguely or to skirt around it. We put it all out there...on the table...all the ugly to be seen for what it is. Loved this post!

blessedmoms simple home said...

So well said Sue! I don't know if you've read the "Our Story" part of my blog, but we went through some of this early in our marriage. It is by God's intervention that our marriage survived and thrived. Many have not been as fortunate. Thank you for sharing your heart here :)
Blessings,
Marcia

Darlene said...

I have seen so much heartache in so many of my friends homes. Addiction is just the worse thing that can happen to a person, I think. So much control is lost when allowing a drug or alcohol to take over. Far too many lives are lost these days.

I hated to see such a talent as Whitney Houston go the way she did. Her biggest mistake, to my way of thinking, was when she got mixed up with Bobby Brown. Still, she had to make those decisions on her own, but what a tragedy.

It is a beautiful thing though, to see one who has gone through hell with the addiction and has come out on the other side. I personally know a few that have been able to "make it", with a lot of help, love and understanding.

The best thing for our kids to do is make up their minds that they aren't ever going to take that first pill, that first drink, just to see what it is like. Curiosity does kill a few cats. So very sad. This is such a good timely post Sue.

Mormon Women: Who We Are said...

AWESOME post. You read my mind. This was something I was thinking about this week as I saw the headlines about her death.

I think this could extend to any addictive substance or behavior. There are many 'drugs' of choice in our society that are ensnaring people.

Ames said...

I don't think we are doing enough to fight the war on drugs. The main drug highway seems to come from Mexico right into the US. Shut it down and heavily enforce travel (illegal as well as legal)across the border. Restore drug and sex education programs in schools and crack down on dealers on the streets. Sad to say this, but unless kids are raised with a moral sense of right from wrong, they don't see any incentive to not try drugs. It all starts at home. Parents seem to think that educating their children about sex and drugs should fall to the teachers. I feel the teachers can enforce the positive message and address peer pressures, but it is not their responsiblity to teach our children about drugs or sex. I co-wrote a college paper on teenage abstinence and I tell you it was an eye opener for me.

Whitney Houston evolved to the place where she ended up. I feel it was because of the heavy influence that seems to be a part of that industry. That and I feel she backslid from her religious upbringing. You can teach your children the right way, but when they reach the age of adulthood, you are no longer responsible for their choices in life.

I think Whitney Houston is probably looking done upon her grieving children and thinking why did I do that?

May she rest in peace.~Ames

Dina @ 4 Lettre Words said...

I certainly love my occasional glass of wine, but I couldn't agree more with you, Sue. It's all just so sad.

Dixie Mom said...

Having a child of my own who struggles with addictions of all kinds, I know all too well the effect of drugs and alcohol.
I do think all of us need to take responsibility for the mess that we are in. I'm shocked at how commonplace drugs are. When I was in high school, we knew there were some kids who smoked or drank but my daughter in high school now lives in a world where those things are common. Not just smoking and drinking but hard drugs as well. I wish it would change and that everyone would heed advice like this. I'm afraid it won't.

Momza said...

My parents were alcoholics. My mother still is--I could write an entire book about the effects of living in a home so very dysfunctional...but my story isn't unusual, in fact, it's predictable for the most part. My 4 younger brothers walk the same path as my parents. I joined the LDS church when I was 16 and that choice has saved my life. I have ZERO tolerance for addictions, I don't care about the who/what/why/or whens. Raising my own children, I was more than proactive about teaching them the dangers of drugs and alcohol, I was in full-blown technicolor dolby stereo sound--Addictions steal lives, dreams, sanity, choices. I don't have patience to coddle an addict or make excuses for them. A neighbor and good friend of mine came to me one morning after the police had delivered their son to their door at 3am, he'd been found face down on the sidewalk, passed out drunk.
He was 17 years old...they had tried everything they knew to make him change and were at their wits' end. She asked me why my kids didn't do drugs, smoke or drink alcohol--just at that moment, my oldest son, who was 18 at the time, pulled up to the house in a car full of his friends. I asked him to come over to me and said, "Sr. B wants to know why you don't drink, smoke or do drugs--tell her why, please." David Scott smiled and said, "Oh that's easy. She'd call the police on us. No doubt."
I made drugs, alcohol and smoking a LEGAL issue not a moral one. I let my kids know I would never be the parent that would cry to myself wondering what I had done wrong, boohooing over their choices. Nope, it is illegal for underage kids to participate in those things and I honored the law. My goal is always to be predictable to my children so they KNOW what consequence they'll face in most situations. As for Whitney Houston, a talented woman to be sure--but I never once heard of her reaching out to charitable organizations, get outside of her Self to help others--she lived for her self as far as I can see, and in the long run the only ones that will truly miss her are those that enabled her addictions in the first place. Ok, I'm done! Thanks for letting me share, Sue.

Momza said...

P.S. I must apologize, I googled Whitney Houston's charities, and she was in fact involved in many good works. This makes her passing all the more sad.

Cherie said...

Very insightful post that hits the heart Sue.
Drugs are out there, we see it all the time, and I am thinking there are not many who have not been touched in their lives by the harmful effects - through a relative, a friend, or even themselves.
It is a waste for someone to ruin their lives, someone like Whitney Houston, and to die so young all because of addiction to drugs.

Caroline said...

I am so glad you wrote this, Sue. I would like to give you a hug if I could.

Even though I am Catholic (and our church doesn't teach against drinking only abusing drinking) I am still NOT a drinker. By choice. I have on many, many occasions thought that the Mormon church is SPOT on with this issue. Spot on. How can you grow spiritually if you are numbing emotions with drugs or drink?
Most children of alcoholics or siblings of alcoholics and addicts (I fall into the sibling category) are too scared to drink. I have always been scared of it. AND I might add, I have made a point to never encourage that on my blog. That being said, recently I posted a DIY project (called cork painting) where I used corks to stamp and to make a painting. Even though I loved the look of the project and the corks had been given to me by a neighbor, I still felt kind of weird about it.
I think teaching our children to have outlets and to share feeling and to express their feelings in healthy ways is so key. Faith is key. Communication is key. But in the end drugs and alcohol ARE a big ugly beast and I think sometimes they become the unfortunate medicine of a generation who feels ignored.

Sue, I think about this issue every single day because I too have a family member who I have watched, literally turn into a different person because of drugs. I think everyday about how I can help my children to NEVER go down that road.

But I am going to promise myself not to be petrified. I am going to go into the preteen, teen years and beyond with love and hope and patience and faith...and just pray that my children will look to heal their sufferings in life in a positive way. Because I know I can't prevent them from life's sufferings--but hopefully I can encourage them to turn to art, or exercise or reading along with prayer for healing. That is my hope.

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