Kids want to be healthy. They want to be good. They want to do the right thing.
And when they do the wrong thing, especially when they do it over and over again, they are pretty tough on themselves.
As one 14-year old put it, “It’s like I’m split in two, with one good part and one bad part. The bad part always seems to win out.”
So I offer this advice, given to me a long time ago by a very wise person: “Do the next right thing.”
They seem to like that idea, because even though it doesn’t erase the past, it offers a window of hope into the future.
In my last column, a group of teenagers offered their advice to younger kids who might be thinking about using drugs.
As one youth put it, “Don’t do drugs, it messes up your whole life.” Another wrote, “You’ll be stupid as a bag of rocks.”
For this column, the group answered this question: “If you had not started using alcohol or other drugs at an early age, how would your life be different?”
Here are their answers:
I would have stayed in boxing and I would have had a car and a license and never got in trouble or did things I shouldn’t have done to others.
My life would be the opposite of what it is now.
I would probably be doing sports and I would have a better relationship with my family.
I think I’d have been an overall happier person because I wouldn’t be carrying the burden of a drug addiction. I wouldn’t be in unhealthy relationships with family members or friends either.
I’d be a high school graduate and still be with my family.
I wouldn’t be going to outpatient treatment.
I wouldn’t be skipping school just to get high or do something stupid.
After I started smoking weed, I started to be less interested in sports because of getting lazy and just wanting to smoke. Also, my mom wouldn’t be too worried for me when I’d be out so late.
I would care a lot more when I’m in a bad situation.
I’d have more friends, a higher GPA, more money, more respect, happier, more solid family, improved health, and better relationships.
I would have had a better school attendance. I would have been involved in sports and not be lazy all day. My family relationships would still be the same.
My emotions would be expressed more.
I would have had better grades because I would have never gotten locked up and sent to rehab. Also, I wouldn’t have the regret of the stupid decisions I made while I was under the influence. And I would have never been put on probation or be getting sent to rehab for a second time.
My life would be way too perfect.
That last statement “my life would be way too perfect” intrigued me. It was the word “too” that confused me.
Did Derik, the 17-year-old who wrote those words, mean that he liked the havoc drugs created in his life? Would life without drugs be “too perfect” (i.e., boring and predictable)?
So I texted him to find out what he meant.
“When I said life without drugs would be perfect,” he texted back, “I meant the fact that I would have the chance of getting my life back.
“What I mean by getting my life back is that I can wake up in the morning and be able to smile at all the wonderful things I never noticed while on drugs.
“Like the fact that I have a roof over my head and food to eat when I come home. I have supportive parents who are willing to help me with anything I throw at them.
“Life without drugs has so much more meaning than a fogged-up brain. You recognize so many things you would of never even cared to recognize while on drugs.
“Another thing I noticed from not being on drugs is the beauty of the earth. That might sound weird but I notice how beautiful life can be.
“Drugs did me no good. I am doing so much better without them. I am happy I left them behind.”
Me, too, Derik. Me too.
Kathy Ketcham is the co-author of 14 books and co-founder of Trilogy Recovery Community. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, go to trilogyrecovery.org.