By KEVIN NEVERS
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the June 27, 2002, edition
of the Chesterton Tribune. The Tribune is republishing it in the belief that
it is as relevant today as it was two years ago. At 6 p.m. today the
Chesterton Town Council is holding a workshop on the drug problem at the
Chesterton town hall.
“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.
“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
A mother's sorrow
On Oct. 22, 2001, John Edward Trowbridge, 23, was stabbed to death in Las
Vegas by Michael Kane, 18. Kane was on an acid trip at the time of the
stabbing. John’s mother, Robin Trowbridge-Benko of Chesterton, on her loss:
The knowledge that his killer’s drug abuse was obvious to his parents, his
friends, his siblings, and went untreated sickens me beyond belief. I
remember hearing kids say that why would someone care if they take drugs or
not. “I’m not hurtin’ no one.” . .
It has been eight and a half months now and during that time I have had to
deal with not only his death, the way he has died, but all that comes with
it, a physical pain so deep you can’t get up some days. And the days you can
you try to shut your eyes to the world because everything reminds you of
what you lost. . . .
I don’t attempt to blame John’s death on anyone other than my son’s
murderer. However, the fact that his killer was a known drug abuser and that
his habits were ignored by his family and encouraged by his friends has led
me to try to make people understand what drugs do to society as a whole.
Everyone has heard how drugs affect society economically, how they can ruin
a person’s life, but one never hears how far the long arm of drugs can
reach. The domino effect that one person’s habit has on society is
extensive. . . .
I think of what happens when a drunk driver kills a person, how we as a
society mourn what has become of our society, how senseless the death is.
But what society has ignored about drug abusers, well, I am simply
disgusted. We have almost come to the point of accepting kids’ taking drugs.
“It’s a phase” or “What can we do?” are heard too often. Having to deal with
the death of a child is horrible in and of itself, but to have it aggravated
by the senselessness of it all just adds salt to the wound. . . .
The other day I saw a young man bicycle past my house. I haven’t slept much
since then because the last time John came to my house he had ridden his
bike. And I never knew that as I watched him ride away it would be the last
time I would ever see him again.
A mother's regrets
The ripples of an addiction can capsize the addict’s family. One mother, a
resident of Valparaiso who wishes to remain anonymous, on keeping her head
How do you weigh feelings of anguish when you tried to do everything right
but things went so wrong? . . .
Of course there is guilt. Did we do something wrong? Did we not do enough?
We thought we knew all the warning signs. We thought we would know beyond a
shadow of a doubt if our children used drugs, but we never really thought
they would. After all, we raised them better than that. But this has to be
somebody’s fault, so it must be ours. . . .
Holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, and everything in between are
not the same anymore, because either the addict child is away in treatment
or possibly incarcerated or the addict child hasn’t been home in the past
few days. It’s not only their presence that is missed, it’s the thought that
the child would be graduating from college right now or this would possibly
be their wedding to plan it if hadn’t been for the drugs. . . .
Whatever the cycle of addiction, your family is in turmoil. Life has
revolved around the addict child. Other children’s needs haven’t always been
met because of the crisis of the moment. Mothers and fathers deal with the
situation sometimes separately and all relationships within the family
suffer. Parents tend to be very suspicious of their other children and their
friends now. The other children resent the implication. They are not only
embarrassed by the behaviors of their addict sibling, but are very angry for
what they see their parents are going through because so-and-so was so
stupid to even use drugs and life as this family knew it was sucked from
everyone. . . .
You awake every morning and then reality hits. You try to fall asleep at
night with a heavy heart. But you do give thanks for the many blessings you
have and hold tight to your partner, because you are trying to weather the
storm together and you still have hope because your child is alive and this
gives you strength to ride the rollercoaster of emotions again tomorrow.