FLASHBACK: I am a single mother, trying to raise a seven year old boy on no alimony or child support. I was self-employed, and had a 2-year lease on my business site. Eating out was such a rare luxury for them, at that time. How times have changed, I thought to myself, as I paid the bill without blinking an eye.Back to breakfast-- my son was really, hungry. We talked about anything and everything. I've noticed that conversation flows so much easier, now. Our relationship is better than it's ever been, but it's taken 8 years of drama to get where we are, today. Seeing my son, at that moment, fills my heart with so much gratitude and love for him. I feel as though my son is listening to me-- and that he values my opinions. I try not to give my opinions (of which I have many) unless he asks. I try to relate with him, and at how wreckless and irresponsible I was at his age. My son told me he was broke, because he didn't get much work. He showed me receipts that he paid to get his car fixed. He showed me his pay stub-- $400.00 for three weeks of work. Ouch. When it rains hard, there's no one using golf carts-- so he gets time off, without pay. He never asked me for money. He was sharing his financial dire straights with me, and I didn't feel any kind of manipulation. This is a new road we are on!
My son admitted to me that he is trying to be better in managing his blood sugars. The meter he is using is old and I told him I'd buy him a new one. I also decided to spend $50.00 on groceries for him-- just some basics and a few pantry ingredients he can use to make easy recipes. My son is too thin, and needs to eat healthier foods. My son is also earning how to cook, which makes me very happy! He was very grateful. When he got off work, at 5pm, he came to my house and off we headed to the shopping center. Using the dwindling trust fund he has, we bought about $100.00 worth of groceries and things he needed for his apartment. I could see my son pick something up, on impulse, think about it and then put it back. The same thing happened when shopping for clothes-- my son, who snubbed anything but designer clothes-- picked out a dress shirt, pants and the least expensive belt, on sale. I offered him a pair of dress shoes (knowing he didn't have any), and he picked out the cheapest pair he could find.
This is my son-- who used to have a closet stuffed full of designer clothes and a wide array of expensive shoes! This is my son who has bought and sold at least a half dozen different video game machines-- not to mention dozens of games, themselves! When I'd question where he got the items, I got answers ranging from "my dad bought them", so "I traded something for them" and even "I sold my video games". Big red flags, that I didn't know how to handle. Maybe, even, I didn't want the confrontation. Sound familiar?
Here's a hint to parents, whose kids suddenly come home with things you don't remember buying for them-- your son just might be selling drugs. I never imagined my son would resort to this, but he did. He's even admitted to me that there was a time he he remembers seeing me crying. I could not afford to pay my rent, and I had no idea how I would provide for my son and me. I was falling apart with fear and worry. B told me he felt bad, because he had a couple thousand dollars, in cash, stashed in his closet. He said he wanted to give me money, but he didn't know how to explain how he got it. Worse, he still expected an allowance from me!
In order to fund my son's growing addiction to oxycontin, he got involved in dealing in on a very large scale. My son was 16 years old, and had just gotten his license and a car. The car was paid for from his trust fund-- it cost $5000.00. By the way, my son kept his curfews. He always checked in with me. Drug Dealers are very crafty. I never even knew what my son was up to. He was very good at living a secret life. If I got too close to the truth, he'd become verbally combative. Sometimes the fights would escalate, I'd blow my cool and tell my son to leave... or to move in with his dad, if he was with me. HINDSIGHT: That's an addicts technique-- blow up, get angry and move attention away from the issue. If they can make YOU feel like you're the hysterical idiot, they won. They diverted getting busted. Listen to me! I know this!
I've mentioned before, that I work at a public high school. I hear the rumors, from faculty, that a certain student is suspected of drug dealing. Some get caught, others seem to slip away from being busted. What I notice is that their cellphone is always going off.
Parents-- Let me recap the clues that I didn't pick up on. My son confirms how much I missed-- and he got away with this for four years. He started selling weed, at the age of 13. He said, had I looked hard, I would have found the scale, the baggies and maybe even a stash of money.
- If your student is failing school, wake up! Contact each teacher, and ask why their student is failing. If the teacher doesn't call back (or doesn't reply to emails), then contact your student's counselor. If you still don't get a response, then go to the principal. At my high school, parents get responded to.
- If your high school (or middle school) has your student's grades online, be sure that you check the grades. I am appalled at how many parents don't bother to check, online! Our software program will even email a weekly progress report-- or daily, if you set it up that way. Ask!
- Many high schools send automated "absence" calls. If possible, ask the attendance office to send the calls to your cellphone. Kids are known to intercept phone calls, and mail. Stay on top of it!
- When you ask your kid why they aren't doing well in school, the odds are they will lie. My son always had an excuse-- "Oh, the teacher fixed that grade." "The teacher lost my homework, but he/she is fixing it". "The teacher hates me". "I lost my assignment". If your kid is using drugs, they are going to learn how to lie so convincingly that you will believe them. Keep looking, and hold your kid accountable.
- Why does your kid need a cellphone? Check the bill! Remove texting, thank you very much. Texting is a secret world, in high schools. When staff confiscates a cellphone, students become hysterical. Admin reads the texts, and have discovered a lot of things this way. In looking back, my son was constantly on his cellphone. It was his "office". Had I looked, he had TONS of phone numbers. Take the cellphone away! They'll hate you for it, but it's a small start. It won't solve the problem, but why enable it?
To those of you parents who can relate to what I've written-- what clues did you miss? Please share them, in comments, so that we can help others who are so new to this Dark World.
NOTE: I received a comment from someone who wondered if my son is lying to me, and he's really using. Here's my honest answer-- there are no guarantees that my son isn't using and hiding it. Addicts are very clever. I do believe that my son is clean-- only because of methadone-- and because I see clear signs in the things my son says, the way he dresses, the gansta slang is gone, and the fact he has no friends. He's lonely. I cannot leave each day in fear. I leave each day in hope.