Twelve years ago,
Dr. Mann Spitler’s 20-year-old daughter, Manda, took a lethal dose of heroin
and died submerged in the bathtub of their Valparaiso home.
In the days and
weeks and months after, Spitler did what few of us would find the strength
to do: he channeled his grief into a tireless activism, warning parents of
the “beast of addiction”--his daughter’s own words--which could be hiding at
the heart of the home.
For more than a
decade, Spitler has been telling Manda’s Story to any school, church,
or community group interested in hearing it. It’s the godawful story of a
bright and beautiful girl, dearly loved, with her whole life ahead of her,
and of a father who one April night in 2002 finds himself on his knees in a
bathroom performing CPR on his own daughter.
hundreds of people have heard the tape of the 911 call which Spitler made
that night, as he begged the dispatcher to send help, as he begged his
daughter to live. It’s chilling and brutal and just terribly, terribly sad.
Now Spitler is
offering hope to parents, in a new presentation, which he test-trialed on
Wednesday at the Duneland Chamber of Commerce’s monthly luncheon at the
Hilton Garden Inn in Chesterton.
There are things
which parents absolutely must know, Spitler says, and things which they
absolutely must do, if they’re to bar their door to the beast.
Begin with the No.
1 Risk Factor for Substance Abuse.
It’s not what you
Substance abuse has
about it the quality of a communicable disease which follows certain
epidemiological vectors. By far the most pernicious vector is, or could be,
your children’s network of friends.
If your children’s
friends are using, Spitler says, your children very likely are or will be
Get to know your
kids’ friends. Get to know their friends’ parents. If your children seem
hesitant in introducing you to their friends, then be very suspicious,
And the parents of
daughters specifically should know this: girls and women become addicts in
the first place--pretty much without exception, Spitler says--through
about friendship, Spitler says. It’s about raising your children right,
teaching them how to be adults, giving them rules to follow and enforcing
consequences when they break those rules.
about toeing the line. It’s about testing and experimenting.
accordingly, are ill advised to trust their children even as far as they can
throw them, Spitler says. “Love them with all your heart. But trust them
much less than you love them.”
greatest mistake as Manda’s father, Spitler now says, was trusting his
daughter, not monitoring her more closely, not questioning her more
urges parents not to take their children’s word about things, to expect them
to lie--such an easy thing to do on a cell phone, he notes--and even to
snoop. Check your kids’ use of data devices. Open their drawers. Read their
diaries. Know where they’re going and who they’re going with and then
cheerfully admits being “a huge advocate of drug-testing” kids--acknowledges
that many parents are uncomfortable with the notion of playing Big Brother
in their own home. But our nostalgia for privacy shouldn’t blind us to the
fact that drug-testing is an extremely effective early-warning system, he
parents to begin drug-testing their children at age 10.
Um, isn’t that
It is, but there
are two distinct advantages, he says. First, it makes drug-testing a routine
and expected part of household life. If you wait until your children are
well into their teens, you’ll probably have to deal with some nasty pushback
on their parts.
drug-testing gives your children an ironclad response when someone urges
them to take a drink or a toke: “I can’t. My parents drug-test me.”
What do you do if
your children test positive?
Get a professional
assessment, immediately. Porter-Starke Services offers them. So does
Frontline Foundations Inc., headquartered right here in Chesterton. For a
full list of substance-abuse treatment providers in Porter County, visit