Editor's note: This is a true story. However, John Doe is a fictitious name used to protect the man's identity for his safety.
John Doe tried to stay off drugs. He knew if he got caught again it would probably mean some serious jail time. But he was so lonely.
Against his counselors' advice he began dating. The young lady smoked pot as did most of her friends.
John told himself he had enough control to be with the smokers and not join in. And he was strong enough. For a while. But the same environment produces the same behavior.
He'd just smoke one, he thought, to fit in and relax a little. It didn't take long for John, again, to become a frequent user of marijuana. Whether it was good luck or bad luck probably depends on perspective, but John, again, got busted.
"Relapse is an unfortunate common reality of drug addiction," said Certified Addictions Counselor Steve Sutherland. "The positive thing for John was his relapse wasn't a catastrophic one. He didn't relapse back on meth, just the marijuana.
"After his arrest, but before sentencing, he instantly went back into recovery, reconnected with his sponsor and got back in the AA program."
Sutherland offered information to help parents deal with the reality of drugs.
"The odds are your kids will experiment with substances," he said. "It's probably going to happen. So expect it and prepare for it. Accepting this reality doesn't make them bad kids or you bad parents. For the most part, at least initially, they will make these decisions with other kids you know.
"Trust your instincts," Sutherland emphasized. "Remember, there is no one on this earth who knows your children better than you do. You know their moods, sensitivities, or lack of. You're are still the parent, the boundary setter, the friend, the one who loves them. Stay in their emotion face.
"And remember, you are not alone in this situation," Sutherland continued. "The majority of families are going to go through this with at least one of their children. There is nothing to be ashamed of. Ask for help through family, friends, church, the courts, whatever is necessary. Educate yourself.
Sutherland said to challenge your kids. He advised for parents to put facts in order if they suspect their child may be using drugs. Talk to the child, his teachers, friends and even friends of friends.
"If the suspicions are extremely strong," Sutherland said, "make the kid get a urine test. Home kits are available or you can get one through the family doctor. Sometimes just telling the kid he has to be tested is all the parents need to do. The kid's reaction may give the parents their answer.
"The best way to deal with it is in the family system. Therapy should not be a first choice," Sutherland said. "Get into a dialogue with the child. Try to reach an agreement with him. He'll probably say he was just experimenting, all the kids do. He may be right. The parent should say, 'OK. That's a phase. Now show us that phase is over.' Make an agreement with the kid to have periodic urine tests.
"Try to determine, is there a pattern? Is the pattern leading to dependency or chronicity? What is the kid experimenting with? Is it just marijuana? Don't get me wrong," Sutherland explained. "Marijuana is illegal and addictive and can lead to stronger substances. But it's not as life threatening as meth or katamine, cocaine, or prescription medicines. They can kill the first time out.
"If the parents want, they can get an evaluation by a certified addiction counselor to determine if the kid needs education, treatment or actually should be encouraged to inter into a recovery program.
"Parents need to keep talking to their kids. One problem parents have is they're so threatened by today's drug culture they don't want to have to address it. It ends up there's an alliance of silence between parent and child. They have to get out of that alliance of silence and stay connected with their kids and their environment."
For his last drug offense, John Doe was sentenced to time served with no probation. The judge felt John has to get away from his current environment for a chance at complete recovery and John has talked to a military recruiter. His intention is to enlist in the military soon.
John Doe and his counselor have talked to the recruiter and they will assist John in continuing his recovery while in the military. He understands what's at stake.
"It's all fun and games until somebody loses an eye, figuratively," John reflected sadly. "And someone always loses an eye. Everybody pays. It's never free. Everybody pays one way or another. Sooner or later."