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Preventing Drug and Alcohol Addiction

It is a very bloody, violent rage of a song. A reader sent me the link. Ben Breedlove, whose inspiration life story YouTube recording I mentioned in the last blog, spoke of a dream where he was greeted by Kid Cudi (a rap star) quoting lines from his song Mr. Rager. I watch it – several times. It’s haunting. Analysts of his lyrics say the song and video are about his new stronger self putting to death the drug taking rage of the man he had been in his past.

Kid Cudi has been very public about his drug use and his recent (as of April 2011) efforts at sobriety.  He tells his fans “Learn from this, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Hell does have an exit, and i found it. For those who are looking for a way out, i left the door open, and ill be waiting for whoever wants to grow with me. Peace and Love, Cudi”

The song has played in my head during recent conversations with three friends, also moms, whose families have been ravaged by the debilitating addiction to heroin. All three moms spent Christmas worried about their sons who have been taken captive by this demon.  One prayed for news of her son and she suffered the inexpressible anguish of a parent who does not know if her child (even a 25 year old child) is safe, warm or fed. Another celebrated the ten hours her son came home from rehab, yet feared what will happen when he gets out (for the third time). The third mom celebrated news that her son was safe, yet refused him access to his child, a grandchild she is raising, with a realistic fear that the demon of addiction would accompany him.

The number one killer of youth in the county I live in, according to the coroner, is drugs. The recidivism (repeat occurrences) of those that go through rehab is around 80% for most programs.  That is less that a 1 in 5 chance that your child can stay clean.

I look at the pain in the faces of these mom’s and recognize how easily I could share their plight. They are all caring, compassionate parents who asked their kids to do their homework, drove them to scouts and sports, taught them hygiene and respect for women, took them to church and taught them to pray, yet lost their children to a subculture that ravages the vulnerability, weakness, and fear that are part of every teen’s life.

We have 80 million kids (18 and under) in America.  According to research, only one quarter are on their way to “thriving” in life (finding joy, connection, purpose, hope, engagement).  The other 60 million kids are on a path of being lost, disconnected, alone, medicated, and confused.

Search Institute has done a great deal of research (over 50 years) on what conditions are present when a child falls into at risk behaviors like drug and alcohol abuse and addiction. There are certainly genetic components, yet Search has identified external “assets” that can surround a child and make them strong to resist temptations.  I am always frightened to realize how few are in my direct control as a parent.

Since establishing the 40 Developmental Assets, Search has focused on encouraging parents, teachers, and youth advocates to nurture children to discover and fan into flame their “Spark,” that is the animating energy that gives their life direction, hope and purpose. Peter Benson has found that kids can name over 220 kinds of sparks, whether skills, talents, commitments, and or qualities. According to Peter, kids need three champions for their spark.  Three.  I can’t be the only one.  Three. I need to partner with their school, teachers, coaches, youth group leaders, scout leaders. Three champions.

Leadership, creatively expressed, is a Spark. I met some extraordinary young girls this past week. My son, Ian (and co-author of the Grow a Generation Leadership Skills workbook) gave a presentation on their call to leadership and media expression. These girls have also become co-authors. Check out the newly revised Leadership Skills workbook that features some of these extraordinary leaders on the cover and sprinkled with quotes on leadership from the various members of their troop.

This week’s hero:  I was most impressed with Troop 11150’s leader, Felicia Mycyk, mother of four, extraordinary woman who is committed to nurture the sparks in not only her own children but over thirty other girls in the Ambridge area.

This week’s resource: Pick up Peter’s book Sparks: How Parents Can Ignite the Hidden Strengths of Teenagers through Amazon or at your local library.

Peter Benson: Sparks: How Youth Thrive

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