Dear Dr. Wes and Marissa: I'm an 18-year-old high school student who has been in and out of trouble my whole life. I was adopted at the age of 4 and have put my adopted family through hell. I've had a drug problem the last few years and was kicked out of the house for it last year. I went through rehab and have recently moved back in with my father. I have been a good student, earning a 3.2 GPA and am in sports.
A week ago my father found some paraphernalia in my room, and I confessed to doing drugs more than once, hoping he would understand my problem and somehow help. I misjudged his patience with this issue, and he kicked me out. Last night, I slept out in the cold with no food and have nowhere to go. I don't know what to do, where to go, and if college is even an option now. Any suggestions would help. Thank you very much.
- Desperate and Confused
Wes: I understand the absolute anger and frustration your parents feel living with a young man using drugs and the trouble they bring. I've had a run on these cases lately, and I don't blame any family for feeling the way yours seems to. However, I do blame them for letting that anger control how they've handled you. It is one thing to "kick your kid" into rehab. It is another to be finished with him entirely and to let him sleep on the street.
I also understand that a core tenet of AA and ALANON is letting the addict "hit bottom." I don't know whether that is what is intended here, but your schoolwork and attempt to find help suggest to me that you may not be the derelict they seem to feel you've become. If your recovery is stalling, you need to get to NA or AA, and your family needs to help you, without enabling your addiction. There also are homeless services in the community that may offer resources to get you on your feet. It's a very hard thing to be in this situation at your age. Regardless of what you have done as a teenager, you seem to be trying to pull it together now.
Readers also should take heed because you are not as far removed from the average Lawrence teenager as some may think. Parents should consider the easy access teens have to drugs in this town. We'll be talking about this quite a bit in the coming months. Teenagers should read this and consider how easily recreational drug use can go bad.
You need the help of your family, this community and, most notably, yourself and your own inner courage - clearly showing through in this letter - to pull up, get an education and make something of yourself. I hope someone will take a stand for you.
Marissa: The situation you are in right now is very sad, and I'm sorry that you have to go through this. Despite one's mistakes, no one deserves to go through this. The major obstacle in finding a solution is that you are 18 years old, and that makes services harder to find because you are no longer a minor.
While I was searching for homes and resources, I ran into a lot of dead ends. My greatest source of knowledge was the Lynisha Thomas, the prevention specialist at Lawrence High School. I would suggest you visit with the prevention specialist at your school to see what kind of options you have. Not only do you need help finding shelter, but I also encourage you to continue to try and stay sober. There are a few programs offered by SRS, and the Salvation Army can help, too. However, I have read in other stories that younger people are often targets for theft in homeless shelters, so I would try to pursue other outlets before choosing to stay in one.
If you're not comfortable talking to your prevention specialist, is there another teacher or adult in the community whom you are comfortable with? Ask around; go to your counselor.
Hopefully, your father will come around and understand that he's not making it any easier for you to stay on the right path by kicking you out of the house. I'm not sure what your history is with him, but I am a firm believer that, through nearly anything, your family should stick by you. Try to get in touch with him and see if you can make amends.
If that's not possible, try to take pride in the fact that you have managed to pull your grades back up and participate in a school activity. It shows that you are making strides toward bettering yourself.
Note: Given the nature of this letter, Dr. Wes conferred with its author outside of this column to further assist him in attaining services.
Next week: "I can't trust my daughter."
Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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