by Eileen Rivera de la Hoz
Recently, on a nightly entertainment show, I heard Martin Sheen talking about his son’s battle with substance abuse. We’ve all heard the stories about Charlie Sheen’s seemingly unending battle against his varied addictions; but here was his father saying that as a parent you have to do whatever you possibly can to get between your child and drugs. The next scene was Emilio Estevez talking about how he wouldn’t talk to Charlie because of what Charlie’s problems were doing to their family. There was no discussion of the amount of cocaine found or how much money was paid to prostitutes. Here was a father and a brother seeking desperately to come to the aid of a family member. The scandalous story, that we’ve all become tired of, suddenly hit me on a whole new level.
The Estevez Family has had to fight their battle on a very public stage as well as the court of public opinion (aka bochinche central). With all the money and connections at their disposal, they haven’t been able to bring about a lasting change in their family member.
Substance abuse knows no race, ethnicity, religion or gender. It has no respect for socio-economic standing and has in fact murdered family life for many people. I speak from experience; many of my own family members were raised without their fathers because drugs destroyed their nuclear family unit. However, in a Latino family, it is not only the nuclear family that suffers, the pain is spread throughout the family. Perhaps the pain and destruction I saw, as a teenager, is what kept me away from drugs in the first place.
As a Social Worker, practicing within the juvenile justice system, I received extensive training in recognizing the signs of substance use and abuse. And yet, my now adult children, figuring that the statute of limitations had passed, have confessed their teenage experimentations. As a parent, I stood there and reminded myself that they were alive and healthy (it kept me from crying.) If they could sneak that under my, very attentive, nose what chance have other parents got.
For all you parents out there, educate yourselves. Keep the lines of communication open and when you feel the need to lecture, please keep it non-judgmental. There’s nothing that slams the door on communication faster than judgmental words. Once you know what to look for and what words to use with your child, we enter dangerous territory. We must look at ourselves and examine whether we are sending out mixed signals. There is no need for you to tell your child all of your youthful discretions; that kid sitting in front of you is your child, not your best friend. Are we telling our kids not to use drugs, or drink too much, while washing a Xanax down with some wine?
I wish you patience and joy with your child. The teenage years can be survived and you may even come out on the other side a stronger family unit.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those
of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.