Chesterton Tribune

Cost of drug use: Families in crisis: A mother's fears

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A mothers fears

Second of Two Parts


“Let me tell you about my neighborhood. There are 11 successful small-business owners who live here. There’s a retired federal agent who lives here. There’s an upper-echelon Duneland Schools administrator who lives here. And two heroin addicts.”

Welcome to Janice’s neighborhood.

Janice and her husband, Tom, live in Duneland with their two children, a son who’s graduated from Chesterton High School and a daughter currently enrolled there. Janice and Tom have been married 20 years. He works at the mill, she at a local business. Their house is nice. Their kids are good. Their family is like hundreds of others in Duneland, industrious and law-abiding. And the threat of drugs looms over their home “like a cloud.”

“My fear just grows and grows. You’ve always got to be shielding your kids.”

Janice agreed to speak with the Chesterton Tribune on condition of anonymity. “Janice” is not her real name.

Every new generation of parents faces its own special challenges, she says, but no generation before hers has ever had to cope with a culture in which drugs are so available and so tolerated. “My daughter and I were talking about drugs. And she says, ‘Well, Mom, kids smoke in the hall.’ ‘Cigarettes?’ And she goes, ‘No. Dope. By my locker. So I don’t go there very often.’ What do I do with that?”

Even parents whose children have so far stayed clean—and Janice has no reason to believe that her own have ever experimented—pay a price for the choices made by other children. The cost is intangible but enervating: anxiety, suspicion, tension.

“I don’t feel prepared for this,” she says. “I was prepared for the sex stuff, the smoking stuff, the drinking stuff. Those are all things I know about. I don’t know anything about heroin. So this is new territory for me. And I don’t like it.”

What frightens her? Pick a scenario. Someone’s dropping Ecstasy or LSD or Roofies into her daughter’s drink at a party. Or some new friend of her son’s taking him for a ride, just for a ride, to the projects in Chicago. “If it gets hold of my kid I can’t do anything about it,” Janice says. “I can’t stop it. It’s bigger than I am. I can’t change it. And I don’t think kids get that. They don’t see lines in the sand. All they have to do is try heroin once and that’s all it takes. I don’t think they understand that. Just once.”

“I’ll tell you something else that scares me to death,” she says. “My kid gets hooked on heroin or something and the rehab bankrupts us. I don’t know if we could afford it. We could lose our home. It could destroy us financially. And rehab is still a hit-or-miss proposition. My kid might never get clean. I don’t want to make it a money thing but that’s something else to throw into the pot.”

Drugs have inevitably taken their toll on her parenting, Janice says. Merely the threat—and she considers it a real one—is exhausting. “Part of me is tired. Part of me says, ‘Aren’t I done with this yet?’ And part of me doesn’t want my kids to be mad at me for badgering them. We have so little time together as it is. It all weakens me. So I’ve slacked off. I haven’t talked to my kids as much as I should about drugs. I haven’t been as diligent in my parenting skills as I was when they were younger, when I thought they needed it more.”

“I want to stay in the bubble,” she adds, “where nothing like that can get in. And I’m afraid that by saying something I’ll jinx it.”

Drugs take a toll on the kids too, although they’re too embedded in the anarchy of their culture to know it. “I think their childhood has just been snatched from them,” Janice says. “It’s really awful. They’re jaded, distrustful, sad. They’re certainly not mature but they’re not innocent either. I don’t think they know how dangerous the world is. They’ve never known it any other way. They didn’t have it like I did as a kid, when a kindergartner could walk home everyday and not worry about getting accosted or see kids smoking pot in the halls at school.”

“I always tell my kids when they’re going somewhere, ‘Okay. Be careful.’ They go, ‘Mom, I’m fine.’ And I say, ‘I know you are. It’s the rest of the world.’”


Posted 6/27/2002