I'm sure I'll be confronted by my children about my past; many parents my age know this day is coming. And, as with all questions children throw our way, it will be at a time least expected; when the answer is a million miles from where the brain cells I didn't trash in my youth, are off thinking about something else. And I intend to be honest with them.
Last week, students at Dayton High School watched an hour-long presentation about methamphetamine that turned my stomach. It took everything I had to sit through the photos of abused and hurting children that were rescued by officers wearing haz-mat suits; Darth Vaderish looking knights in shining armor. The innocent victims.
My party days were plenty. Hanging around Reno some 20 years ago, the drug of choice was cocaine. It was just something we all did. We were having "fun."
Hit bottom, called my mom who dragged me home, got me straight and had the courage to set me free again. I went to Southern California, and later the movie industry scene and returned to partying.
Mom called once, "Are you still doing coke?"
I remember thinking I could lie and she would know. Or I could be honest: "Yes, Mom, I am, but I know my limits."
"As long as you are clear about that," she said. No more, no less.
But clarity wouldn't have changed the possibility of near-death from a bad batch, overdose or crossing the wrong person. Now from the perspective of a mother, I don't think I'd have been as gracious as my own.
What it must have taken for her to not drag me home a second time; to step back and allow me to make my choices, fall on my butt, or worse, kill myself. I now know how much she worried.
Those days came to an absolute, I'll never go there again, screeching halt the day I toured a just-busted meth lab. I was a journalist covering the story.
I believe every high schooler should do two things: visit the morgue to see the consequences of drunk driving and take a tour of a meth lab.
Last week during the presentation, an acronym flashed on the screen. "Meth: Moves Everyone To Hell."
And how: bad skin, jacked-up, missing teeth, twitchy, nervous, often unpredictable and aggressive behavior. Meth can take the kindest, most loving person and turn them into the scariest, most violent kind of monster.
There's nothing "fun" or "pretty" about it. And if you hang with a meth user, you will usually become a meth user.
My friend's sister is sitting in Alderson Prison (Martha Stewart's recent residence) for the next five years because of her affiliation with her dealer boyfriend. What a fairy tale: she fell in love, started casually using meth, he started dealing, she gave birth to a drug-addicted baby, they got busted by the feds, married him so she wouldn't have to testify against him, he implicated her, she testified anyway and now, she's in the big house on an extended vacation; her only hope of getting clean. Her children and family have paid a dear price. No happy ending here.
Meth is now a three-generation problem that impacts all classes.
There is no such thing as "knowing limits" or "not my kid." Casual use? I don't believe it's possible.
Each of us must do our part BEFORE they dabble. Be honest when they ask the questions. If they're asking, they're already hearing it.
We started the discussion about drug use at an early age at our house. My girls should feel safe coming to me about anything. But I don't kid myself. That doesn't mean they will. There is no immunity that our children - even the "good" ones - will not use. Don't be afraid to question. Go through their drawers (even if they just think you might, it's not a bad thing). Be clear about expectations and consequences. Reserve the right to up the ante if they keep making bad choices, and let them wonder how bad the discipline could be. A little mystery never hurt.
Dare to parent. Don't be afraid to say "no" without explaining or justifying. It's our job to be an occasional hard-ass. They appreciate boundaries, and even discipline when deserved. One day they'll say "thanks."
• Contact reporter Karel Ancona-Henry at firstname.lastname@example.org or 246-4000.